A highly charged yet intimate body of work by the British photographer Ivar Wigan, the work presented in this exhibition vividly documents the street culture of Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans. While the title of the exhibition itself is derived from street slang to denote a senior or veteran hustler, it also serves as reference to Ivar’s own classically influenced approach to capturing his subjects. Producing this body of work, Wigan immersed himself in North American communities of the deep South, finding himself absorbed in capturing a hidden and frequently undocumented lifestyle. The result is a collection of raw, provocative images that are cinematic in character.
Art critic and curator, Ana Finel-Honigman compares Wigan’s working approach to Nan Goldin: ‘Although he shares Goldin’s empathy and deep fascination with ephemeral existence, his work is fundamentally opposed to hers. While Goldin photographed people whose personal demons forced them to throw life away, Wigan’s subjects embody hyperbolic vibrancy that embraces life itself – Wigan’s work is packed with displays of camaraderie, social drama and community.’
The Gods takes the viewer upon an intimate journey to capture the distilled essence of the scene. Wigan comments: ‘I want the viewer to feel that they were there with me and that they know what happened just before the image was taken and what might happen soon after.’ The images showcase intimate moments from living within this culture. ‘You might describe my presentation as a kind of glamourised, narrative portraiture.’ Not intended to be read as social commentary or documentary work, the body of work examines moments of joy and camaraderie within his subjects life of struggle – producing images which are all the more surprising and enduring as a result. Wigan explains: ‘The images are slightly beyond what is real. Everything I show you happened but the exact moments I choose to present are selected and edited to give you an intense distillation of what these scenes are like.
For Ivar Wigan, the aim of his work is twofold; to stand a testament to the often heroic reality of the lives of his subjects – making them in the process the stars of their own narrative – and to introduce his audience to a world outside their own personal experience and comfort zone. As Ana Finel-Honigman summarises: ‘Wigan’s work celebrates people whose personal lives and personal aesthetics are a stick of dynamite lit at both ends.’