I/Eye: On Photography

In praise of curiosity: Yvette Dostatni’s conventioneers

Posted in Other Photographers, portraits by Sheila Newbery on June 9, 2011

Yvette Dostatni’s work was selected for Review Santa Fe 2010. A Chicago resident, she is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune Magazine, Chicago Magazine and The Chicago Reader. In 2000, she was selected as one of eight full-time photographers to document the city of Chicago, with funding from the Comer Foundation. She is also the winner of two consecutive ‘Magazine Photographer of the Year’ awards for portraiture. All photographs reproduced here with the kind permission of the artist.

2010 C2E2 Comic Book Convention © Yvette Dostatni

2010 C2E2 Comic Book Convention © Yvette Dostatni

The people in Yvette Dostatni’s conventioneer portraits are optimists: they hunt for opportunity — whether this means scrounging for merchandise under a table at a comic book convention or sidling into a throng of aging peroxide beauties at a cougarfest. Even individuals who seem immune to optimism are fortunate to be in the company of those who can shoulder the burden for two: a woman standing next to her phlegmatic companion in a double portrait of polka conventioneers is haloed by a wide-brimmed hat, as if to convey that proximity to her is shelter enough against life’s adversity (or indifference); her partner’s arm around her shoulders signals a tacit faith. There’s a matter-of-factness, too, about the appurtenances of trade, and if we sometimes sense the whetted alacrity of an incipient sales-pitch in a merchant’s gaze, it’s not an outright leer, nor are we burdened by any aversion on the photographer’s part. The things of the world (and there is much stuff in these photographs!), however exotic or strange, are pictured with a measured delectation, as if to say: this is life’s emporium. Step right up.

2009 Pet Industry Trade Show © Yvette Dostatni

2009 Pet Industry Trade Show © Yvette Dostatni

The thread that runs through Dostatni’s portrait work is not, to my eye, social isolation or marginality (as one commentator recently suggested); it’s rather…confidence. Her subjects know there’s something to be gained from donning the masks and costumes, fashioning the balloon bracelets, wearing the barbie hats — or, more to the point, from being surrounded by others who do the same. It’s an aspect of our national character which these photographs frankly consider: our collective embrace of this prodigious, psychic engine of optimism.

Dostatni’s style is forthright and unfussy. Her photographs are conceived with an alert, unapologetic curiosity; she clearly relishes the descriptive opportunities afforded by the medium, and it’s this very unabashedness of the work, expressed as a confidence in her subjects, that strikes the note of authenticity.

2003 Midwest FurFest © Yvette Dostatni

2003 Midwest FurFest © Yvette Dostatni

2009 Beatlefest © Yvette Dostatni

2009 Beatlefest © Yvette Dostatni

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: