The Tension of the Unknown: ARC Presents Sam Nixon

Posted in Photography by Nathan Lee Bush on August 12, 2011

Some of the best photographers and filmmakers in the world walk through our doors every day. ARC Presents is our series highlighting their work.

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Ambiguity, the tension of not knowing, is a fundamental frustration of the human psyche. Who hasn’t experienced the building anxiety in the waning chapters of a page-turner, the growing suspense near the climax of a film, the impulse to find out?

And yet, there’s a simple pleasure in not knowing. Being tantalized, teased with hidden knowledge, pulls us in. Photography can exploit this impulse because, while seemingly offering so much in terms of descriptive accuracy, a frozen moment in time is inherently enigmatic. What lies outside the frame? Why is the subject making that strange gesture? So much of the story is filled in in the viewer’s own mind, and often, the more potential interpretations there are, the more intriguing the image becomes. Great photographs can thus be discovered over and over again.

Fashion Photographer Sam Nixon understands this tension, and working within the confines of the genre, manages to capture this ambiguity with his models. His spare, simple scenarios and enigmatic poses are satisfying in their lack of the clean finality we often see today. It’s getting easier and easier to make technically correct images, and the ‘mistakes’ in Nixon’s work: motion blur, soft focus, light leaks, double exposures, serve as an repudiation to the considered perfection of much modern digital photography. It feels like we’re witnessing a brief glimpse of a moment slipping through the stream of time.


Nathan Lee Bush is a fashion and fine art photographer and filmmaker in New York City. His work is on his site and blog.

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  1. Andrea JV Lo said, on August 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Hes soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo gorgeous…! Like, totally gorjeeewaaa…x

  2. […] this blog, Through The Looking Glass, I review the ambiguous and alluring work of fashion photographer Sam Nixon for our ongoing series, ARC Presents; we announce a few positions we’re hiring for at Adorama […]

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