"Arguably Grannan’s most consistent focus thus far has been the complex task of reconciling oneself to the human body, and the myriad ways in which it is traversed by our own frustrated aspirations, and the penetrating gaze of others. In the five separate projects bound together in her debut monograph, Model American, her measured but dramatic lighting frequently pointed up the mismatch between self-image and self-possession, and grounded that disjuncture in the difference between an interior and exterior conception of the body. Her nudes in that series were careful, if not tender, beautiful, while lacking any attempt at flattery, and bold enough to accept a reciprocal question about her interests as a portraitist, even as the pictures questioned the intentions of their subjects.
In some portraits, young men seem to search for a sensuality in their flesh that the pictures do not confirm, but nevertheless remain predisposed to consider. In others, the storybook protections of youth, or thepost-Pop raunchiness of adolescence fail to provide the confidence that they perhaps nominally held as ideals. In still others, the raw and unabashed exposure of nudity seems more tragic than voluptuous, albeit precious for the intimacy with which it is extended. Throughout, the photograph’s relation to the body is grounded in the difficulty of remaining centred within an essentially contested space. (…)
The title The Ninety-Nine reminds us that we are each a numbered index card within the systematic logic of capitalism, and that the odds of our success (or even survival) decrease exponentially in proportion to our distance from the number one. The reductive grammar of the images depicts each individual’s inscription into that system, stripping away everything except the stability of each subject’s relationship to the pressures of light and time. The sparseness of the frames simultaneously emphasises the incidental moment of their making, and, in its tendency to abstract people into graphic forms, renders the portraits inherently metaphorical, symbolic and irreducible. They are images that, by an inverse gesture, clarify the profound value of stability, and they suggest that mobility and productivity are intricately bound up with the obsolescence that the portraits frequently imply.
Should we feel discomfiture in the face of these portraits, it might not be a reflection of the anguish of these individuals (at the very least, not exclusively). Rather, that discomfiture could be read as reflection of the difficulty we face, today, in understanding subjectivity outside of consumerist models of success. Beauty here is troubling because it arrests us without ennobling the fragility from which it arises, and our contemplative ease as viewers stands in a tense relationship to the stresses contained in these photographs.”
— excerpted from “The Discipline of Modern Economic Life: an essay on Katy Grannan’s The Ninety-Nine and The Nine," just uploaded to thegreatleapsideways.com