Irena Werning's Time Traveling Portraits

Leanne, New York, 1982 and 2011© Irena Werning

Back to the Future _ _By Irena Werning teNeues $50

This body of work by Argentinian artist Werning is probably better known than she is: A few years ago it went viral online and lit up e-mail boxes around the world. Juxtaposing people in old photographs with their more recent reenactments, the series has a goofy kind of one-note charm—akin to I-look-like-my-dog contest pictures—but for Werning, it’s an ongoing sociological study. This 160-page volume includes works both familiar and previously unseen, shot in the photographer’s native Buenos Aires as well as London, New York, Paris, Mumbai, Jerusalem, and points in between.

© Irena Werning

In each case, the artistic spur is the original artifact. “I know I’m a nosy photographer,” Werning writes in her introduction. “As soonas I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for those old photos.”

Along with the vicissitudes of aging (let’s just say some faces weather the years more smoothly than others), the collected work shows an incredible attention to detail, from the recreated props and locations to the meticulous photo research. Werning explains that her process involves “studying the lighting, the angle, the type of camera and lens [the artifact image] was shot with, etc.” Most crucial, though, is the enthusiasm of her subjects. “Once I get the light right, I ask them to do that thing they were doing in the original photo,” Werning notes. “I am always amazed that they do it.” Ditto here.

© Irena Werning
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