Some of the images that come to mind with the mention of Beverly Hills are those of sunny palm-tree boulevards, big mansions and the pop-culture phenomenon from the '90s, Beverly Hills 90210 tv-show.
But in her collection 90210, Priscilla Mars takes us beyond the glitter and glamour of the star-studded city and provides an unusual and slightly distorted image of the place. With stark b&w photography, she completely disregards the kind of romanticism we are used to seeing in the entertainment industry's representations and achieves a more organic depiction of the Californian urban landscape.
Even though the camera confronts buildings of wealthy estates, their splendour doesn't take over the pictures. Rather, the unique architecture and shadowy streets make allegorical scenes that allow the expression of poetic sensibility.
While man-made structures create barriers and impose distance that evokes a sense of isolation, they are in each instance engulfed in nature. With her framing, Priscilla Mars accentuates the interplay between the human desire for control and nature's untamed persistence — she even super-imposes trees over buildings — and reminds us that the shine of glossy limousines and marble mansions provide no protection against the invasion of the reality of life.
There is also something more personal to the photographer that underlays the collection and gives this body of work emotional depth and complexity. Contrasting all other photographs of exteriors, the picture of an obscured mirror whose frame is decorated with diamond-like ornaments turns the narrative on the side of introspection. It signifies a self-portrait but its quality implies a vagueness of self-reflection and a blurred conception of an identity.
As she distorts perspectives and challenges conventions of representation, Mars strips photographed objects down to their symbolic meanings as if she is searching for something fundamental to herself that she could reconnect to through those fragments of the town she inhabits.