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Stephen Rusk

Sproxton Award for Photography - 2016 winner

Stephen Rusk is a Canadian photographer interested in portraiture of performance, faces, and expressions. He has a long career in dance photography, and he constantly experiments with the ways that faces are used in performance and how they are read.

He graduated from MA Photography at London College of Communication in 2016, where his research and practice looked at the meaning of neutral faces, performance imagery, and the pitfalls of automating emotion recognition. Stephen is the 2016 winner of the Sproxton Award for Photography.

The 2016 judges: Anne McNeill (Impressions Gallery) and Magali Avezou (MA Photography graduate 2013)

Artist statement

Stephen Rusk’s practice involves portraits of performance, faces, and expressions. Using still photography and slow-moving image, working with contemporary and ballet dancers, he examines the meaning of faces in performance, questioning how the human face is read in a world of scrutiny.

In 'Through a Glance, Darkly', dancers eye the camera, turn, return, restore the glance, and turn again. At first, they adopt the hallmarks of identity photography: eye contact, relaxed facial muscles, closed mouth, and neutral expression. As the turns begin, subtle emotions and stresses seem to show on their faces.

As they turn away, we are denied a luxury of still images: the opportunity to gaze at our leisure and form an opinion based on little evidence. Can we read their faces before they are gone?

The project is part of a larger body of work which questions how well we know a person from a still image or a brief encounter; it asks what happens when we try to scrutinise the inscrutable.

Stephen’s research looks at the perils of automated emotion recognition and shortcuts to understanding strangers, red-flagging a new wave of physiognomy.

Thanks to the dancers from London Contemporary Dance School and Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Special thanks to colleague Rosie Holtom for her contributions to the work’s formation, production, and meaning.

View more work by Stephen at stephenrusk.com

Through a Glance, Darkly (excerpt)

Gallery

  • stephen-rusk-alexandra-pholien-4-web-1.jpg
    , Through a Glance, Darkly by Stephen Rusk. Sproxton Award for Photography Winner 2016
  • stephen-rusk-hayley-walker-4-web.jpg
    , Through a Glance, Darkly by Stephen Rusk. Sproxton Award for Photography Winner 2016
  • stephen-rusk-josh-attwood-4-web.jpg
    , Through a Glance, Darkly by Stephen Rusk. Sproxton Award for Photography Winner 2016
  • stephen-rusk-though-a-glance-darkly-installation.jpg
    , Through a Glance, Darkly (installation view) by Stephen Rusk. Sproxton Award for Photography Winner 2016