Anna Gaskell crafts foreboding photographic tableaux of preadolescent girls that reference children’s games, literature, and psychology. She is interested in isolating dramatic moments from larger plots such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, visible in two series: wonder (1996–97) and override (1997).
In Gaskell’s style of “narrative photography,” of which Cindy Sherman is a pioneer, the image is carefully planned and staged; the scene presented is “artificial” in that it exists only to be photographed. While this may be similar to the process of filmmaking, there is an important difference. Gaskell’s photographs are not tied together by a linear thread; it is as though their events all take place simultaneously, in an ever-present. Each image’s “before” and “after” are lost, allowing possible interpretations to multiply. In untitled #9 of the wonder series, a wet bar of soap has been dragged along a wooden floor. In untitled #17 it appears again, forced into a girl’s mouth, with no explanation of how or why. This suspension of time and causality lends Gaskell’s images a remarkable ambiguity that she uses to evoke a vivid and dreamlike world (www.guggenheim.org)