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Gregory Halpern’s ZZYZX introduces California as “one enormous, surreal contradiction after another” by presenting it through its paradoxes and complexities.
ZZYZX begins in the desert east of Los Angeles and move west through the city, ending at the Pacific. The anonymous people, places, and animals Halpern features create a structure, sequence and edit which, like Los Angeles itself, teeters on the brink of collapsing under the weight of its own strangely-shaped mass.
Rather than focus on the obvious and cliché, Halpern conveys the Los Angeles area through the lens of magical realism, while maintaining levels of uncertainty, anonymity and continuation.
Gregory Halpern is an acclaimed American photographer who has focussed his career on an exploration of the elusive, nascent notion of Americanness. He is celebrated for his pioneering photobooks, with recent publications ZZYZX and Omaha Sketchbook examples of the artist’s lyrical and poetic explorations of place.
Halpern’s celebrated photobook ZZYZX was published in 2016, and explores the landscape and people of Southern California. Named after an ‘unincorporated community’ in the Mojave desert, the project journeys from the eastern fringes of the state of California towards Los Angeles and, eventually, the Pacific. Omaha Sketchbook, compiles photographs made in Omaha, Nebraska over the past 15 years. The series, lyrical response to the American Heartland, is ultimately a meditation on America, on the men and boys who inhabit it, and on the mechanics of aggression, inadequacy, and power.
Hapern was born in 1977 in New York State. He gained a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University in 1999, and an MFA from California College of the Arts, San Francisco in 2004. Further books published by Hapern include A (2001), Harvard Works Because We Do (2003), East of the Sun, West of the Moon, (2014) a collaboration with Ahndraya Parlato, and Confederate Moons (2018) and Let The Sun Beheaded Be (2020). He also edited, with Jason Fulford, The Photographer’s Playbook: Over 250 Assignment and Ideas in 2014. In 2014, Halpern was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. ZZYZX was awarded Photobook of the Year at the Paris Photo Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards in 2016. Halpern became an Associate Member of Magnum Photos in 2018 and is currently professor of photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York.
Gregory Halpern lives and works in New York.