Collier Schorr – There I Was
There I Was marks a shift in medium and a conceptual departure for Collier Schorr. She is best known for her photographic studies of a real and imagined town in southern Germany, works which tease the accepted artifice of photography to forge an appropriated remembrance of German histories. Schorr found drawing a more acute medium to describe events that took place in the neighbourhoods of her childhood, specifically the muscle car counter culture of the 1960s in Long Island and Queens, NY
This history is related through the short but spectacular life of charismatic 19 year-old drag car racer Charlie “Astoria Chas” Synder and his ’67 “Ko-Motion” Corvette. At the age of 4 Schorr accompanied her father, an automotive photographer and journalist, to a local race track where she watched Astoria Chas work on his car. A subsequent article followed, with the now eerie headline “While Astoria Chas is doing his thing in Vietnam his friends are racing his L-88.” By the time the article was published, Charlie Snyder had died in action in Vietnam. There I Was is Snyder’s story and Schorr’s dilemma. He was there, she was not. The project examines the role of the photograph as proof of the photographer’s presence, territory and view, and the difficulty of representing any past without the theatricality of re-staging it. Based entirely on photography, the book engages with the medium and simultaneously challenges the role of the photograph as document of the past. Using a collision of source materials for the drawings, beginning with her father’s images and Snyder’s own snapshots taken in Vietnam, Schorr then draws from professional reportage pictures, so as to describe, literally sketch out, one monumental trip from Queens to Vietnam and back. These drawings are contrasted by reproductions of vintage car magazine articles and Schorr’s own photograph portraits. There I Was is a complex and multi-faceted look at escape, culture, dreams and mortality, conjuring up an expressionistic portrait of the dichotomies of the late 1960s in a fractured wartime America.