Val Priftis Photography Exhibit at Broad Humor Film Festival - Review


The photographic series, “LA Ladies” by French artist Val Priftis is on exhibition as part of the Broad Humor Film Festival (read review) in Venice, California.  The photos adorn the walls of the Festival Lounge and provide a wonderful evocation of the tone and style of this niche film festival.   

Hanging on clothespins from a clothesline, that iconic emblem of women’s work, these photos all imply a much larger life canvas than that within the photographer’s lens, bringing the life of the entire city down into the green room of the Electric Lodge Performing Arts Center. The photos, taken last summer in and around Los Angeles, focus not on the face of the women, thereby inviting the spectator to project his or her desires upon her as a beautiful object, but catch these women from the side or behind.  It is as if we are reading over her shoulder or accompanying her one step behind. 

The few face-on pictures are of whole persons, capturing a complete being moving through her life.  They all are extraordinary images and fit perfectly with the films and the ambiance of this very independent film festival.

A waitress at a diner, two women headed to the office loaded with Starbucks specialty drinks, laughing friends walking down Hollywood Boulevard, a woman gazing out to sea holding a child, a couple of old hippies window shopping: all quintessential Los Angeles moments that capture in vivid stillness the way women move through this city.  Yet each photo feels like a movie, carrying with it a full story in the expanded world that it implies.

If I had to choose a single photo as a favorite, I would select a simple shot of a woman sitting at a restaurant counter.  Her back gloriously straight, she sits on a stool facing the wall.  The stool to her left is empty and she holds a cellphone to her left ear.  The imaginary presence of the party on the other end ot the call both fills the seat beside her and yet somehow leaves her isolated, for her companion is not in fact there.  I wonder not so much about her, but my own life speeding though the city, never alone while I am on the phone, yet also completely alone. 

The overall effect of the exhibit is one of joy that emanates not simply in the photos of women smiling and laughing with other women. It is in the bare attention paid to these women as they are. 

Some psychologists say love is all about unconditional attention, a willingness to put oneself aside and be with the other as she is without judgment or need.  These photos, like many of the films in this festival, celebrate women not by putting them on an idealized pedestal, but by showing them as true subjects whose purpose lies within themselves instead of in relation to men.  The depth of feeling that results is in the mysterious immanence of being itself, being here in LA, being female in a body, being alive.

The photos exhibition will travel with the festival to Rome in December.  Inquiries should be directed to the artist:
mailto:[email protected]

For more information about the Broad Humor Film Festival, go to:

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