Osceola Refetoff’s interest is in documenting humanity’s impact on the world – both the intersection of nature and industry, and the narratives of the people living at those crossroads. His images exist within traditional means – landscape, portraiture, travel, editorial – and are variously produced using film, digital, infrared, and pinhole exposures, according to what best expresses the character of his subjects. Thus, despite his documentarian impulses and the fact that his images deliberately depict quite ordinary, even mundane, subjects, he trains on them a hyper-realistic and nuanced vision, often yielding surreal, even dreamlike images. His process generally happens “in camera,” at the moment of capture, in a kind of alchemical reaction that transforms the external world into something both unchanged and extraordinary, realistic and magical.
Refetoff’s motion picture background informs his approach to constructing visual narratives. Most of his early artistic influences were from the world of cinema. His meticulous framing of compositions in depth, explorations of temporal as well as visual space, and creation of in-camera effects echo the great mise-en-scène directors Lang, Welles, Kubrick, and Melville. With an appreciation for the quirks and rebellions of technology that thwart the medium’s pretensions of authoritative objectivity, Refetoff reminds viewers that the photographic document is always a collaboration between a human and a machine, asking questions about truth, dispassion, control, and invention that are inherently part of how photography functions in the world.
From Desert Windows examining the formal gestures that people use to frame and contain their relationship to the landscape, to related series like Dust to Dust, Magic and Realism, and Flirting with Disaster examining how they build their lives and move through these lands, Refetoff shifts between stylistic modes of representation to build layered, multidimensional histories of architecture, landscape, and population. What links all the forms and aspects of his eclectic practice is a commitment to capture “what the picture requires,” using the many cameras he carries to render not only how a place looks, but how it feels to be there.- Shana Nys Dambrot - Art Critic & Curator
A native Chicagoan, Osceola is half Danish, half Bulgarian, and half Canadian. Refetoff holds a B.A. in Film & Mass Communications from Duke University and an M.F.A. from New York University's Graduate Film Program, where he earned a Paulette Goddard Scholarship and the Warner Bros Fellowship Award. His art and editorial photography has been featured in Artillery, Arid, Boom, Palm Springs Life, Hemispheres, and WhiteHot magazines, among others, repeatedly earning the Outdoor Writers’ Association of California (OWAC) awards for Best Feature Photo, Best Nature Photo and Best Overall Photo. His work is widely exhibited, including at the San Diego Art Institute, the Palm Springs Art Museum, The Main Museum, Photo LA, Porch Gallery - Ojai, and numerous solo exhibitions covered in The Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, CBS, LA Weekly, and other publications.
His current focus is an expansive set of portfolios surveying the human presence in the deserts of the American West, in particular High & Dry, a long-term collaboration with writer/historian Christopher Langley. Balancing image and word, the personal and historical, its topic is the future and legacy of human activity on those arid lands. The project is regularly syndicated on KCET's Emmy-winning program Artbound, and was voted KCET’s “Best of 2015” for both Art+Environment and Photography programming. The project received OWAC’s 2016 Best Outdoor Media Award, the organization’s highest overall honor for work in any medium.”