It started when the artist was living in Seattle. The previous tenant of Jeff Downer’s apartment must have done some business with Publishers Clearing House—a marketing company that sends catalogues and subscriptions with sweepstakes, prize-based games, and a lottery draw for which the winners get their photographs taken with six-foot cheques—because catalogues and letters stating Mrs. L was only two steps away from winning $1,000 every week for the rest of her life kept arriving. The artist went to check the mail one evening and found himself flipping through one of PCH’s merchandise catalogues while walking it straight to the recycling bin. The magazine’s claims are what brought it up two flights of stairs and into the apartment. In the months that followed, the mailbox was constantly full of junk. The work of Handsome Rewards is sourced from several of these catalogues.
The exhibition and publication Handsome Rewards seeks to frame the varied capacities that photography has in everyday life. Images of highly staged sets with models positioned in front of stark backdrops reveal the commodity in a controlled situation where human presence is fragmented. But more than the sets constructed for the products, it’s the products themselves that make the images so full of meaning. Strange, novel, or voraciously banal, these products lend themselves to deeper reading.