Katy Grannan

Melissa, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2019
pigment print, 31-1/8 x 41-1/8 inches (framed) [79.1 x 104.5 cm]

Katy Grannan is a photographer and filmmaker whose work depicts the lives of people at the margins of American society. Grannan often develops long term relationships with her subjects, creating collaborative portraits. Grannan was first recognized in 1998 for an intimate series of portraits of strangers she met through newspaper advertisements. Grannan worked for years throughout the Northeast and produced several different series entitled Poughkeepsie JournalMorning CallSugar Camp Road, and Mystic Lake, each referring to a local newspaper source or secluded location. Grannan’s process and the consequent images are informed by her own childhood in the American Northeast. Each photograph is imbued with secrecy, desire, and hidden intentions.

Gail and Dale, Pacifica (I), 2007
pigment print, 41-1/4 x 51-1/8 inches (framed) [104.8 x 129.9 cm]

With her move to California in 2006, Grannan photographed “new pioneers,” people who, like herself, encountered something very different from the mythological “West” with its promise of eternal summer and personal reinvention. Instead, these new settlers face the end of a continent and the potential for failure as they struggle to define themselves under the scrutiny of the relentless Western sunlight. The Westerns explores the relationship between aspiration and delusion—where our shared desire to be of worth, to be paid some attention—confronts the uneasy prospect of anonymity.

Anonymous, Modesto, CA, 2013
pigment print, 40-3/4 x 31-1/4 inches (framed) [103.5 x 79.4 cm]

Grannan’s Boulevard marked the beginning of a lengthy series of “street portraits.” These photographs appear to be made without the subjects’ knowledge, but are in fact, spontaneous collaborations between Grannan and strangers met on the streets of San Francisco and Hollywood (and later throughout the Central Valley). Boulevard and the subsequent series, 99, unfold as an enormous procession of humanity—a dance macabre of marginalized and powerless members of society. Grannan uses the ubiquitous white walls of city buildings and the glaring noon sunlight to serve as an impromptu, decontextualized backdrop that emphasizes each individual and defies any preconceived assumption of their “anonymity.” Grannan exhibited Boulevard at Fraenkel Gallery and Salon 94, New York in 2011. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) mounted a comprehensive exhibition of this series and a three channel video installation entitled The Believers in a two-person show in 2012, titled The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White. The series was also the subject of a solo exhibition at FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam in 2015, and selections were included in a three-person exhibition at the Rennie Museum in Vancouver in 2022.

Alexa, 2018
pigment print, 58-1/4 x 44-1/4 inches (framed) [148 x 112.4 cm], edition of 3 + 1 AP

The 99, Grannan’s continuation of “street portraits” refers to Highway 99, which runs down the spine of California through the Central Valley—a place Joan Didion described as “the trail of an intention gone haywire.” Grannan followed Dorothea Lange’s trajectory (made famous in American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion) and discovered a similarly austere terrain and stoic sensibility. Grannan’s large black and white vistas describe a uniquely psychological landscape enveloping cities along Highway 99, where for most, the “American Dream” is pure myth. The region and its inhabitants remain overlooked and undervalued, yet there exists a quiet beauty in the seemingly mundane interactions among those living within this parched landscape.

Brian, b. 1976, 2004
pigment print, 31-1/4 x 38-1/2 inches (framed) [79.4 x 97.8 cm]
Meghan, Saw Kill River, Annandale, NY, 2002
chromogenic print, 49 x 61 inches (framed) [124.5 x 155 cm]

The Nine is the title of Grannan’s film about a marginalized and charismatic community in the Central Valley that struggles to find meaning and moments of grace in a hostile environment.

Kiki and April, Modesto, CA, 2017
pigment print, 41-1/8 x 31-1/8 inches (framed) [104.4 x 79 cm]

There are six monographs of Grannan’s work: Model American, The WesternsBoulevard, The Ninety Nine and The Nine, and Hundreds of Sparrows. Her photographs are included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. She lives and works in Northern California.

Nicole, Self Portraits, II, 2010
pigment print, 31-1/8 x 41-1/8 inches (framed) [79.1 x 104.5 cm]