Roe Ethridge, Holly at Marlow and Sons, 2005. Chromogenic color print, 30 x 24 inches (76.2 x 61 cm). Promised gift of Beth and Richard Marcus. © Roe Ethridge
Roe Ethridge often focuses his camera on mundane subjects, ranging from a kitchen counter in a suburban home to shopping mall signs and barren winter landscapes. With the eerie drama of a David Lynch film, Ethridge’s photographs uncover the unusual in the ordinary.
In Holly at Marlow and Sons, the subject is a young woman who stands behind the counter at a nondescript café, perhaps Marlow and Sons in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The photographer inserts the viewer into a position that is familiar, considering options at a local shop while the staff waits to take the order. The appealing composition of this portrait is reinforced by the repetition of forms—the folded dollar bills in the tip jar, the black-and-white stripes on Holly’s turtleneck, the items filling the shelves behind the counter. Ethridge’s masterful use of shallow depth of field and soft focus calls to mind his commercial and product photography experience.
As the third work by Ethridge acquired by the ICA/Boston, Holly at Marlow and Sons helps suggest the breadth of his practice. This work joins a strong collection of photographic portraits by such artists as Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, and Nan Goldin, and, in representing an art image drawn from everyday experience, has a connection with the video works of Christian Jankowski and Rachel Perry.