Philip-Lorca diCorcia presents ’East of Eden’ at David Zwirner gallery in London

A woman in a dress standing behind a tree
'Lacy', 2008
(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

American photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia is known for his large tableaux in which carefully staged scenes can seem confusingly like some kind of verité. But in a show of work at David Zwirner's serene, year-old London gallery, one of the most lyrical images was created by chance.

In a mountainous landscape fit for a Thomas Cole painting, save for the scarring from forest fires, a perfectly attired cowboy trotted into the shot while diCorcia was at work. The result - a lost and lonely figure in a ruined place - is just one in a series of images with themes taken from the book of Genesis and named after Steinbeck's novel 'East of Eden', where the struggle between good and evil is writ large.

DiCorcia began the project in 2008, provoked by the financial crash and the deleterious state of late Bush-era America. 'It was an oblique response,' said the photographer at the show's opening. 'But 2008 suggested a loss of innocence to me.' In one image two men grapple, one in a red T-shirt, the other in blue, while a Botticelli-esque woman observes from the door. It's called 'Cain and Abel' but equally describes the Democrat/Republican relationship in the US: it's impossible to tell whether the men are fighting or making love.

In another, a pole dancer creates a feat of wonder, in what diCorcia describes as 'a progressive strip joint' with an impressive mirrored ceiling. Succeeding in keeping hold of the pole with just her hip joint, this mystifying physical ability links her with Lilith, the woman who transforms into a serpent in the Garden of Eden. In yet another, two finely groomed white dogs watch porn in a Hamptons home. 'I rarely manipulate photographs after they are taken,' said diCorcia, 'but in this case the dogs were watching Bambi. I put in the porn later.' The RSPCA need not come out on this occasion.

A picture of a cemetary taken from behind a tree

'After the Fall', 2012

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

An image of trees and shrubbery

'Upstate', 2009

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

A house with an American flag and flowers in the garden

'Stockton, California', 2009

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

A long stretch of road through the San Joaquin Valley, California

'San Joaquin Valley, California', 2008

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

A man on a horse overlooking a river, with mountains in the background

'Sylmar, California', 2008

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

A woman with a dog at her side, looking away from the camera into the garden

'Andrea', 2008

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

A woman sitting on a bed looking out of a window. There is a television with a tornado on the screen

'Iolanda', 2011

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

A white house with snow on the roof and displaying the American flag

'Mount Ararat, Pennsylvania', 2012

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)

A man sitting at a dining table with a woman behind him with her hands on his shoulders. A dog lies on the floor in the kitchen

'Lynn and Shirley', 2008

(Image credit: Philip-Lorca diCorcia)


David Zwirner
24 Grafton Street
London W1S 4EZ