Getting Familiar with Stranger Lives, A Series of Portraits by artist Caitlin Teal Price
Being on the beach elicits a full mind and body sensation. To lay on the sand soaking up the sun and feeling the sea breeze is an intimate experience, but that same exposure leaves a person vulnerable to the elements and to curious onlookers. This dichotomy is exquisitely represented in Caitlin Teal Price’s series of portraits Stranger Lives (2008-2015), which features an array of strangers lying on the sands of New York City beaches.
Price photographed each subject from above, capturing the intricate details of their bodies. The sunbathing bodies are presented in an aesthetic and taxonomic manner. The flattened perspective focuses solely on each individual’s sun-kissed body, drawing our eyes to the features that contribute to their physical identity, while providing enough anonymity to fantasize about these stranger’s lives. Dorothy Moss, curator at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. states, “I am drawn to something at once both timeless and edgy about the openness and relaxation in the bodies and on the faces of Price’s close-eyed subjects. The kind of defiance, seizing the moment for the sake of treating oneself to seduction, and collectively escaping life’s stresses in a public setting is strangely exhilarating, perhaps made more so by the sense of voyeurism inherent in this project.”
Stranger Lives depict individualism and diversity in a niche, nearly universal setting. Price’s portraits focus on nuances within contemporary life through the lens of a common ritual at the beach.The sense of tranquility and susceptibility expressed within these photographs is why Stranger Lives is an indicative portrait of the human condition. Price explains that, “I was and still am interested in the juxtaposition of confidence and vulnerability and the way so much could be read into a person’s life with just a few (rather intimate) details – what possessions they decided to surround themselves with, the scars and imprints on their skin, the way the color of the bathing suit matched the towel.”