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This photograph by Sally Gall was featured in The New York Times Magazine Photographs (Aperture, 2011), edited by Kathy Ryan, and originally published in the magazine on June 7, 1992, as part of an editorial article entitled “Remembered Rooms.” In this assignment, Gall was asked to work from literary quotes about rooms, quotes which evoke tangible feelings, such as smell and sound. Gall recalls being particularly inspired by a quote from Sue Grafton’s mystery crime novel A is for Alibi, about walking into a room and inhaling the familiar scents of Lemon Pledge and bourbon.

Gall created what appears at first glance to be an all-too-familiar image of a nondescript dining room set. But when one looks longer and allows oneself to be seduced by the late afternoon light, the objects are free to transcend their banality. The scene is transformed into a still from a memory, and the lemony fresh scent of a newly polished table creeps into the nostrils of the viewer, leading us to a place that is both comfortable and contains an ominous hint that where there is light there is shadow.

Sally Gall (born in Washington, D.C., 1956) received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1978. She is best known for her sensual interpretations of nature; her photographs are more experiential than literal. A two-time recipient of the prestigious MacDowell Fellowship, as well as of other awards and grants, Gall is based in New York City. Gall is currently represented by the Julie Saul Gallery in New York and the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco.

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