Jessica Dimmock's Ninth Floor

Reviewed by Mary Goodwin

Issue 1

Until 2006, the building at 4 West 22nd Street blended into its Manhattan block, an address like any other in a busy upscale neighborhood. That was until Jessica Dimmock dared to open the door and take us inside 4 West 22nd Street, up to the ninth floor. There she found an island within an island, a microcosm of hell populated by heroin users and the degradation of body and spirit that always follows the drug around. Dimmock documented this world with unblinking courage within the four walls of the apartment and as it seeped onto the streets, homes, and lives of loved ones. Her portraits portray the very short circuit traveled by the inhabitants of the ninth floor as they float in and out of deals, highs, and relationships. The owner of the apartment, Joe, a destroyed and crumpled figure, barely moves from his station on the couch in the living room, entirely dependent on his younger roommates to both score for him and shoot him up. He is an unheeded harbinger of tortures yet to come.

The Ninth Floor gained Dimmock attention quickly when it won the very first F Award and was published in a beautiful edition by Contrasto. Since making this work, Dimmock's photographs have appeared in several publications, including New York Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, and Time, and in 2008 she signed with the VII Network.

On April 17, Dimmock opened her first New York exhibition, staged at the Foley Gallery and featuring The Ninth Floor. The exhibition context brings her and fresh power to this stunning body of work, as the prints, most made at mid-range 11 x 17 size, give closer and grittier access to the cutting monotony that informs her subjects' lives. Unlike experiencing the images in book or multi-media presentation format, the viewer has nowhere to hide inside the box of the gallery. This feeling of being trapped heightens the sensation so prevalent in The Ninth Floor: the terrible luxury of squandering that ephemeral possession, life.