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Michael Corridore

Angry Black Snake

Exhibition review by Nathalie Belayche

Aperture Foundation Gallery, New York

25.02.10 – 17.04.10

Published in 1000 Words Magazine # 8


Angry Black Snake, a beautiful collection of photographs created by Michael Corridore, raises more questions than it answers, like a gift offered to improve the experience of seeing. Immersed in the contemplation of intriguing landscapes and people suspended in a choreographed moment, Michael Corridore’s project, indeed, puts the viewer to the test.

What is happening through the smoke and haze? Are the people pictured attempting to escape some sort of natural disaster? Faced with the sight of men flinging their arms in the air, women huddling over their children and a young girl peering towards the horizon through the smokescreen, we could easily be forgiven for thinking that Michael Corridore is photographing a post- apocalyptic scene.

Given that the individual photographs are untitled, the name of the series sounds furiously enigmatic and the fact that the work is ungenerous in its supply of visual clues as to its context, Corridore’s images demonstrate photography’s full potential for ambiguity. It seems to be the photographer’s one true intent to let his images speak for themselves. He says: “I invite viewers to project scenarios that may have transpired outside the frame onto the images, interpreting them according to their own experiences.”

Over the past six years, Australian photographer Michael Corridore has been methodically building up this series by attending car burnout competitions and photographing the people who experience them. “The first time I went to a burnout competition, I had my camera and began taking photographs immediately, I was in awe of the spectacle and confusion that followed,” he says.

The title of the project, Angry Black Snake, describes the moment in a burnout competition when a car overheats and blows the engine, forcing the rubber radiator hose up into the air which then dances through the burning smoke, simulating the movement of a snake.

The race itself is never documented by Corridore’s camera. Rather, he is striving to create fiction out of a real moments; moments which only last a couple of seconds. This obviously dictates the approach the photographer has to take. “There are so many variables, the people’s positions, level of smoke, direction of wind, weather conditions, the nuances of spectator’s reactions. The people need only open their mouths slightly, close their eyes or turn their heads down and the pictures will communicate a different story, ” Corridore explains.

Directly influenced by the high level of noise from the engines, the toxic smell of burnt rubber and the overpowering heat, the spectators react emotionally and physically to the scene that is taking place beyond the frame. “It’s this loss of connection with their environment, which appealed to me. The smoke created a visual censorship of the true story,” the photographer asserts.

By focusing on the very specific moment when people are cloaked in dust and smoke coupled with the way the horizon is always obscured creates a minimalist and surreal mood to the pictures. This precise “visual censorship” is what titillates the viewer and piques their curiosity to look deeper in an attempt to work out what is actually happening in these strange situations.

Nevertheless, the ambivalence between the figures and the background draws an aura of intrigue since the constricted postures and palpable tension present in facial expressions does not fully disclose the moment they are living.

The linchpin of Michael Corridore’s Angry Black Snake project, lies in its strategy to leave the viewer’s emotions intact once the story behind the photographs is revealed. Angry Black Snake is a photographic project that we undoubtedly need to see in person to best appreciate its beauty and the Aperture Foundation Gallery in New York is as good a place as any.


Michael Corridore received Aperture Foundation’s Portfolio prize in 2009  with Angry Blake Snake series


Text reproduced courtesy 1000 Words Magazine