More about Justine Kurland
Dreaming of escaping society for utopia? Justine Kurland’s work can help you fulfill that fantasy.
Justine Kurland’s work is the visual embodiment of the “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” a paradise outside of capitalist society. Born in Warsaw, New York in 1969 to a Renaissance fair costumer, Kurland found normalcy in the nomad life, moving from place to place. As a teen, she followed her dream of becoming an artist, running away from home and moving in with an aunt in New York City. Her inspiration as a photographer is found in her childhood experiences, exploring wild and uninhibited youthful pleasures in a world with often strict traditional expectations. She graduated from The School of the Visual Arts in New York in 1996 and earned her MFA from Yale University in 1998. Working under instructors at Yale who used techniques of staging, Kurland was inspired to find a happy medium between complete artistic control and a collaboration with those in her photographs. Her images are very heartfelt and hint to the yearnings of the young and naive.
She completes her work through travel and experience, often using photographs as a sort of diary. She’s enamored with the ideas surrounding the American road trip, which is often synonymous with freedom and being able to go (almost) wherever your heart desires. Her photographs are often staged with compositions inspired by Romanticism and early photographers, such as Julia Margaret Cameron. Her most renowned work is a series called Girl Pictures, taken in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which features adolescent and teen girls exploring their surroundings and attempting to find a place they can call their own. Kurland worked with these girls to give them a sense of independence and exploration, playing on the idea of the cliché runaway, while also emphasizing that of the girl community and relying on each other. Similarly, in Highway Kind, a monograph published in 2016, Kurland further explores these ideas of independence within her own avant-garde family – a beat-up van and her son. She traveled with her son across the United States and tried to find her own meanings of mythology and the West.
Kurland continues to work with ideas and people to which she has a personal relation. After she became pregnant, she completed photographs of other pregnant women and mothers; when her son found a fascination with trains, she photographed those living a nomadic lifestyle on the railways. She finds a poetic perspective in anyone she photographs, creating a romantic view of their life. While there are many tribulations faced by these groups of people, particularly runaways and those living a nomadic life, Kurland is able to create a picturesque vision in her images.
- “Justine Kurland”, ArtNet, 2022. http://www.artnet.com/artists/justine-kurland/biography
- Ellah, Patricia, “Freedom and Photography,” Teeth Mag, 1 November 2018. http://www.teethmag.net/interview-justine-kurland/
- “Justine Kurland”, National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2022. https://nmwa.org/art/artists/justine-kurland/
- Robinson, Amanda James, “On Solitude and Community,” The Creative Independent, 16 July 2020. https://thecreativeindependent.com/people/photographer-justine-kurland-…
- Rudick, Nicole, “An Interview with Justine Kurland,” Vice, 19 July 2010, https://www.vice.com/en/article/dpxdkz/an-interview-with-justine-kurland