Suppose I were to tell you
about this cowboy
who’s not really a cowboy,
not in the regular sense of the term,
not in the sense that she drives cattle,
or rides horses,
or wears cowboy hats,
not yet anyway.
This cowboy is imaginary
but she exists,
like a sculpture trapped
inside a block of marble
waiting for her line of flight,
waiting for the sculptor
to start chiseling away at the stone.
by Lena Niemi *
In her latest series, Anja Niemi continues her investigations of the self. This time she turns the lens to a life lived under the constraints of conformity. Every day her fictional character finds herself trapped in the same pink dress, but what she really wants is to be a cowboy, dressed in fringe and leather, riding horses in the Wild West. Through this series of photographs with multiple layers and possible interpretations, Niemi delivers her most political work to date.
"The story is not really about being a cowboy. It’s about wanting to be another." Anja Niemi
In order to visualize the imaginary world of her character Niemi had to experience it for herself. Alone in a rental car, dressed as a cowboy, Niemi visited and photographed all the places on her character’s annotated maps. She hiked up and down the mountains of America’s national parks and rode a horse on the same field John Wayne filmed one of his famous horse battles. Always trying to be what her character would have wanted, unafraid and unaffected by others.
Niemi works alone, photographing, staging and acting out the characters in all of her images. A book of the same name is published by Jane & Jeremy and is available at the gallery.
Anja Niemi (b 1976) is a critically acclaimed and highly collectible Norwegian fine art photographer. Her works have been exhibited worldwide; she has published three books.
* The poem by Lena Niemi, sister of Anja, is an excerpt from a longer text accompanying Anja Niemi's photographs in the book 'She Could Have Been A Cowboy'.