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Overview: The Pursuit of Happiness in Playland, CA | Photography

ABesides being a revered photographer who had a solo exhibition in 1977 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Chauncey Hare had other lives. He worked for 20 years as a petroleum engineer for Standard Oil, then transitioned into a clinical psychologist, becoming a pioneer in research on the harrowing effects of corporate life. As well as a book called Abuse at work: how Recognize and To survive Thishe was perhaps most famous for a series of portraits of young American families in their modern homes, oddly isolated with their appliances, and a related series of photos of men and women in open-plan offices, wondering what they were doing there.

Although Hare, who died in 2019 at the age of 84, tended to see his psychoanalytic work as the antithesis of his art, the two strands of his life both shed light on the alienating values ​​of the United States. consumerists, the promise of the pursuit of happiness in the suburbs. . Janet Malcolm, writing in the New Yorker, described how Hare’s photographs, apparently deliberately banal, seemed to “tremble” with a “latent sense of meaning” so that “everything represents something else”. She compared Hare’s framing of her subjects to “the way a psychoanalyst works with free association.”

As art historian Robert Slifkin notes, in a fascinating new book on Hare’s work, Leaving your day job, there were only a few periods in Hare’s career when he devoted himself entirely to photography. These are months and years in which the Guggenheim grants allowed him to take time off from the oil company. Otherwise, his photos were mostly a weekend strain. Between 1968 and 1972, he was a frequent visitor to Playland, an amusement park near his home in Richmond, California. He always packed his uncanny gift for ironies. This image of a woman riding a painted tiger on a merry-go-round incorporates enough of Janet Malcolm’s quivering symbolism to last a lifetime.


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