The Omega Suites
September 1 – October 23, 1992
Lucinda Devlin’s photographs are like a whispered story that changes as it is passed along in a circle of strangers. Her personal photographic interpretations of contemporary interiors tell unique stories that only resemble the original locations she visits with her camera.
Since the mid 1970s Devlin has been looking inside America recording the landscape that lies behind closed doors. In a series titled Pleasure Ground she photographed the interiors of bars, health spas, hotels and honeymoon hide-a-ways. Like the patrons of the establishments she was recording, Devlin was looking to capture an extraordinary experience.
If you visited the places that Devlin has photographed you might recognize certain objects and reference points, but rarely would you see the place from the same point of view she creates with her camera. Pure optical vision conforms to a fixed horizontal perception and our brain instantly compensates for shifting light balances giving us a solid and even path to navigate efficiently. Devlin, however expands our normal sense of vision by using a wide angle lens and color film that only correctly responds to one type of light source. Employing these techniques she is able to create fields of color invisible to the naked eye and compress perspective to highlight particular objects or aspects of interest within each room.
Devlin continued to refine these photographic techniques. Her investigations into how we live our lives gradually led Devlin to explore the most harrowing and descriptive rooms in America – death chambers where legal executions are carried out.
As in her previous work, Devlin uses a square format. In The Omega Suites, the square becomes the visual foil to conventional interior architecture that almost always follows rectangular vertical and horizontal planes. Like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, Devlin’s choice of the square format throws our visual perception off balance while her subject challenges our moral equilibrium.
Devlin has photographed death chambers in 20 states since she began the project in 1991. Only California and Florida have turned down her formal requests. The administrators at most facilities have been gracious in their accommodations, one even offered to send her photographs they made of their electric chair to save her the time and trouble.
Devlin is after more than a visual record of a room. Her photographs create an atmosphere that breathes with the presence of the condemned, their victims and their executioners, even though no individuals appear within the frame. In The Omega Suites, electric chairs and gas chambers stand silent under a cool illumination of artificial light. In their silence, Devlin’s photographs implore us to consider the stark realities of exchanging lives destroyed by passion and violence with lives grotesquely ended in vindication for their crimes.
Director, Light Work