Originally photographed by Ron Jude in central Idaho in the early 1980s and forgotten for nearly three decades, the images in emmett range from hazy scenes of a summertime drag race, midnight horror films on a TV set, and a Nordic-looking teenager who appears as a specter from his past. Reconsidered here as a “new” body of work, these early photographic efforts—vernacular in tone, lacking in irony or pretense, enhanced by cheap filters and telephoto lenses—now resonate with unexpected menace and melancholy, building on Jude’s fundamental interest in exposing “the folly of rational thought” through fragmentary photographic narratives.
Related conceptually and residing thematically between two previous bodies of work, Alpine Star and Other Nature, emmett explores our desire to give structure and assign meaning to our memories, and our inability to ever fully know or understand ourselves through self-reflection. As Jude brings coherence to his own unintended “series” of emotionally charged pictures, the everyday notion of the past collides with the more philosophical and improbable idea of The Past, creating a tension between our sentimental engagement with photographs, and the nagging sense that it’s all just an illusion. Through nuanced editing and a purposeful exploitation of his own photographic mistakes, Jude fleshes out and finesses this tension into something palpable—an aesthetic inspired by equal parts Motörhead and Jean-Paul Sartre.