Peggy Gertner’s Photography thesis combines videography with traditional portraiture. Today she creates arresting editorial images and art that brings together still photography, digital animation, and sculpture.
Gertner visited New York’s Strand bookstore in 2009 and found a text that would inspire her thesis years later: a school yearbook from 1980–1981, belonging to one Jill Barshay.
The yearbook evoked a sense of familiarity and mystery for Gertner, with handwritten personal messages giving character to otherwise anonymous portraits. Gertner’s thesis, titled The Yearbook Project, is a video that plays with notions of identity, memory, and reality.
Gertner’s video opens with what appears to be a yearbook page whose portraits are missing. Within seconds, 17 figures, all played by Gertner, enter the scene and assemble as a “living” class photo. The subjects compose themselves and peer at viewers for a minute before exiting the tableau one by one. The effect is both amusing and disorienting. Barshay—whom Gertner found on Facebook—visited the BFA Photography end-of-year exhibition, which featured The Yearbook Project, and declared the video “a perfect homage to junior high.”
Since graduating, Gertner has photographed for Bon Appétit and New York Magazine. She currently works with print and digital design as a creative assistant at ROOT studios.