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Handsome Rewards


Jeff Downer


March 31st – April 30th, 2017


When I was living in Seattle the previous tenant of my apartment must have done some business with Publishers Clearing House, a marketing company that sends catalogues and magazine subscriptions with sweepstakes, prize-based games, and a quarterly lottery draw, where winners are photographed with six-foot cheques. I kept receiving notices stating that Mrs. L was only two steps away from winning $1,000 every week for the rest of her life.


One day I found myself flipping through one of their merchandise catalogues, “Handsome Rewards,” while walking it straight to the recycling bin. What caught my eye was something called a “resurrection plant.” According to the ad, the plant can survive extreme dehydration and can live for several years without a drop of water. The plant requires only a minor spritzing to revive it from its parched state. I bought it for a friend who is absolutely terrible with plants - they die as soon as she pots them. After this purchase I was subscribed to a mailing list and was soon receiving a whole variety of other catalogues. The work in Handsome Rewards is sourced from several of these catalogues.


Jeff Downer’s exhibition and publication Handsome Rewards aims to acknowledge the capabilities that simple forms of photography have in everyday life. When stripped of their context, the agenda of the commercially driven photograph’s appear uncanny and humorous. In these images commodities are highly staged, dramatized, or modest in arrangement. Ordinary in appearance, the models merge with the setting, drawing our attention to the products. Close ups of objects with fragmented bodies: fingers, a grinning face, or a pair of ankles are caught in mid-action but are perfectly still. One could consider the product’s target audience, may envision this person employing it in their everyday lives, and question the necessity of such a product.


This exhibition was a part of Capture Photography Festival.