Professor Tarrah Krajnak’s Photobook Named a Top 10 Favorite of the Year by MoMA

Photo courtesy of Tarrah Krajnak

Claremont, Calif. (November 30, 2021)—Pitzer College Associate Professor of Art Tarrah Krajnak’s new book, El Jardin de Senderos Que Se Bifurcan, has been selected for MOMA’s inaugural list celebrating its ten favorite photobooks of the year. This recognition is one of the latest in a series of honors—including the Hariban Award Grand Prize and the Lewis Baltz Research Fund award—that Krajnak has recently received for her work.

Krajnak titled her book after a time-bending 1942 short story by Jorge Luis Borges, which translates to “The Garden of Branching Paths.” She describes her book as moving “fluidly between found vernacular photographs, my own original text, and appropriated images from 1979 Peruvian magazines I collected in Lima.” Last year, Krajnak won the 2020 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, which recognizes the work of artists whose projects make the most of the connection between words and images. The book was also shortlisted for the Aperture/Paris Photo Book Award.

Lucy Gallun, associate curator in MoMA’s Department of Photography, described Krajnak’s “wide range of approaches and processes” in MoMA’s online publication, Magazine.

“There is performance documentation, appropriated images from magazines, found passport photos, Xeroxes, reproductions of posed portraits, and, woven throughout all this material, the artist’s own extraordinarily poignant writing,” Gallun writes.

Krajnak’s art reflects her journey of self-discovery. Born in Peru and orphaned as an infant, Krajnak was adopted into a family in Ohio. Roughly 30 years later, she returned to Peru. She explains: “I set out not to recover some stable authentic identity hidden by the circumstances of my birth and adoption, but rather to build a psychic history, to imagine lineages, invent mothers, and to resurrect ancestors in an effort to understand my place within the larger political, social, and historical narratives of my birthplace—Lima, Peru, circa 1979.” 

In the photobook, Gallun says Krajnak works through her “own relationship to the circumstances and place of her birth from her complex perspective as a transnational adoptee.

“In utilizing re-photography, repetition of image and text, and a range of experimental processes,” writes Gallun, “she lays bare the essential qualities of working through time, messiness, emotion. As an artist who is deeply interested in the materiality of photography—she explores different photographic media and often develops her own prints in the darkroom—Krajnak has found in this project that the ‘photographic process itself’ can become an entryway into personal discovery.”

MoMA launched its celebration of the photobook this year in recognition of the art form’s increasing importance. According to the MoMA website, “Since 2000, the number of photobook publishers has multiplied by five, and the genre itself has achieved a new level of inventiveness, experimentation, awareness, quality, and sophistication…The photobook has never been so essential as an element of photographic creativity.”

Krajnak’s photobook, along with the other top ten favorites, is now part of MoMA’s Library collection and available for purchase in its Design Store.

MoMA’s selection of Krajnak’s book was part of a remarkable year for the artist. Krajnak was awarded the Jury Prize of the Louis Roederer Discovery Award 2021 at the international photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles; the Hariban Award 2021 Grand Prize at the International Collotype Competition in Kyoto, Japan; and the prestigious Lewis Baltz Research Fund (LBRF) award. All three major awards were given in recognition of her series Master Rituals: Weston’s Nudes.

Describing Master Rituals, LBRF award committee said Krajnak “grapples with the problematic canons of modern photography and engages specifically with the legacies of master photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.” The committee highlighted her use of the camera, her body, and performance “to engage with their work through acts of erasure, redaction, and reenactment. Part homage and part critique, the work opens a dialogue with these ‘father figures,’ as well as a conversation with its contemporary audience.”

Krajnak has exhibited widely at art institutions around the globe, including Art Basel, Paris Photo, Honor Fraser Gallery, Silver Eye Center for Photography, and The National Museum of Women in the Arts. She has received grants from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Arizona Commission on the Arts, Vermont Community Foundation, and the Harpo Foundation. She is also the producer and host of the podcast series “The Careful Photograph,” which highlights BIPOC voices in contemporary photography.

Tarrah Krajnak has taught at Pitzer College since 2013, having previously held teaching positions at the University of Vermont, Cornell University, and Notre Dame.

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