In his latest solo photographic exhibition at Bokeh Gallery, Wayne Rainey has taken on the role of silent observer. A story he tells in just over a dozen images, The Passenger alludes to the role of the traveler as someone passing through a place. As I joined Rainey in this act of quietly watching from a distance, the aloneness of the characters became apparent. Few photographs held more than one person. In those that did, the subjects often seemed detached from one another – alone, but together. One image is the exception. What appears to be a couple playfully embracing, rolling around in what might be their backyard. Proof that Rainey has cultivated a real talent for capturing people in moments that feel authentic and unaltered.
Photographing the subjects in their natural environment, whether they are aware of the photographer or not, has allowed the viewer a special window into these people’s lives. In a time when curated online profiles and carefully constructed personas rein king, Rainey’s images are refreshing in their everydayness. The viewer can connect with the subjects, because they have been that subject at one time or another. The anonymity in each image allows us to place ourselves there, to trigger our own personal connections with these strangers.
The transience of the traveler is evident in the physical distance between Rainey and many of his subjects; as one in commute might look out the window of a bus, car, taxi and see the world whizzing by from behind a pane of glass. This distance is made evident not only by the small scale of the subject in comparison to the sweeping landscapes, but with bodies of water. Rivers slightly blurred by motion become borders between Rainey and his subjects – filling in between spaces. Like water that has little control over where it’s headed, the passenger rides along passively towards her destination.
Boats make an appearance in several images. Tied to the land by thin moorings they become islands on their own right, vessels of utopian dreams. The boat is a collision of the desire to live in two worlds at once, to belong and escape, to be a part of a community and retain individuality. These same dueling sentiments so often felt by a passenger are present in Rainey’s photographs, as his subjects seem to occupy this liminal space.
The landscapes Rainey photographs feel equally familiar and distant; as if they are from a place you’ve only visited in your memories. Or possibly from a fantastical story you read once as a child. Riddled with open narratives, the viewer is left to imagine, where are these lone characters coming from? Where are they going? Is someone waiting for them when they get there? Rainey gives us many entry points into his work, putting the viewers’ imaginations in the driver’s seat.