About the Photographer

Gitelson, Jonathan

American, b. 1975

Jonathan Gitelson works in a variety of media – including photography, artists’ books, video, installation, public art, and web-based projects – to playfully explore personal storytelling. Grouping his work into projects rather than series, Gitelson combines a humorous approach and deadpan aesthetic to intertwine personal narratives of daily life with stories about the places where he, or his subjects, live. The resulting projects feel like absurdist yet comical sociological studies. Gitelson cites such influences as Ed Ruscha, Jack Kerouac, Studs Terkel, and the radio program This American Life.

Living across the street from the Funky Buddha Lounge meant that clearing fliers for other nightclubs off his windshield became a morning ritual for Jonathan Gitelson. From the summer of 2004 to January of 2005 he collected more than 1,000 such fliers and then spent the winter sewing them into a car cover. With the cover draped over his car and his car parked in front of various establishments represented by the fliers, just the wheels of Gitelson's Civic are visible underneath a mass of advertising. Photographed during the day, the unpopulated and unusually clean city streets in these pictures yield no trace of the lively atmosphere conveyed by the flyers or litter-strewn curbs to which they contribute. The Car Project (2006) includes eight large-scale photographs and is sometimes exhibited with the car cover on a Civic-shaped metal sculpture.

In the series Dream Job (2003), graphic posters playfully combine text and image, pairing a portrait of one of the photographer’s friends with a fabricated classified ad for the sitter’s dream job. One poster features a girl in a wet suit paired with a job description for an oceanographer. Job responsibilities include swimming with dolphins and exploring sunken sea vessels in search of lost treasure. Another ad searches for a political radical who is “willing to lead the war against globalism, capitalism and many other isms…duct taped clothing a plus.” By enacting exaggerated roles that recall the cultural stereotypes of a given profession, Gitelson’s dreamers sensationalize the common experience of using a newspaper want ad to imagine oneself in a new occupation. As a series, the works emphasize the imaginative spirit of ordinary people who envision their life through the fantasies of popular culture.

Jonathan Gitelson holds a BA in literature and photography from Marlboro College, Vermont (1997), and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago (2004). He has exhibited internationally, including solo shows at Nelson Hancock Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2008); Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design Photography Gallery, WI (2006); Community College of Southern Nevada, North Las Vegas, NV (2006); and Peter Miller Gallery, Chicago, IL (2004, 2006). Additionally, Gitelson completed a permanent public art installation for the Chicago Transit Authority at the Armitage Brown Line station (2006-2008). Gitelson is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Magenta Flash Forward 2010 Emerging Photographers Award; The Netherland-America Foundation Cultural Grant (2010); the City of Chicago Community Arts Assistance Program Grant (2007, 2010); and the College Art Association Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship (2004). Gitelson's work is held in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Milwaukee Art Museum, WI; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, among other institutions.