What the f*ck ... ?
I love this photograph because it's a photograph. If someone had painted this, it would be difficult to move beyond the "WTF?" moment, as the explanation would simply be an oddity inside the painter's head. People put absurd shit on canvas all the time and call it "art," but it's empty work: the quest for the absurd is exhausting, unending, and ultimately unrewarding.
What makes this work as a photograph is the fact that this actually happened.
Yes -- that is a crewman on an Alaskan crab boat, somewhere in the frigid waters of the north Pacific. Yes, that is a cat. Yes, that is a plastic horse head. The "WTF?" moment gives way questions rooted in the fact that this occurred in the real world, not merely in the imagination: how did this happen? Since when do cats go deep sea fishing? How many times has that guy woken up with that horse head in their bunk? Who's the man behind the mask?
The circumstance of a photograph is far more satisfying than an artifact of a narcissistic imagination. The bizarre reality of the image is both complimented and reinforced by it's role in the exhibition: this photo is the existential exclamation point at the end of a stunning and somewhat brutal series about storms, steel, fish, and men.
This is a terrific antidote to the last five years of "party people" photography and cheaply manufactured irony. I love it.
My take? I think the cat and horse were both horrified to discover a photographer on board.
What do you think?