Everyone has odd connections that form within the brain’s synapses. Perhaps smelling a certain shampoo suddenly brings you back to summer days spent at the pool as a kid. Or maybe hearing a certain song on the radio reminds you of passionate memories with an old flame.

Photographer Mark Chester, in a slightly different take on this phenomenon, has paired black-and-white photographs that are playfully reminiscent of one another in his upcoming exhibition, Twosomes, at the OK Harris gallery.

“When I did my early exhibitions,” Chester explained, “I would lay out the framed photographs on the floor, spread them out and figure out a flow: what images went with what images. You were basically sequencing. That’s how I got the idea of Twosomes.”

Often humorous, Chester’s 101 image pairs each have some aspect tying the two together: a man sticking his head into a telephone on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro paired with a pig sticking its head in a bucket; archers photographed in Bhutan paired with actor Steve Martin wearing his signature arrow-through-the-head hat; a logging train paired with rolls of toilet paper.

“I like anagrams,” said Chester to explain his interest in pairing photos. “I like to play Scrabble. It’s visual; it’s a pattern. But there’s also another level of interpretation playing Scrabble.”

None of the photographs in the Twosomes collection were taken with the intent of pairing them; they all come from Chester’s amassed archive of contact sheets and photographs. After a decade of revisiting these old images, Chester compiled 101 pairs that will be featured in the exhibition and collected as a book.

“It didn’t happen overnight,” Chester said. “That’s for sure! It was an evolving process.”

Chester has been a professional photographer since 1972. His photographs have been featured in multiple national newspapers and international galleries. No In America, a photographic collection of “No” signs found around the United States, is one of his most well-known books.

Photography is the medium that best expresses my observations and travel experiences,” stated Chester on his website. “My work is not limited to any specific category. They are pictures of people, places and things that have touched me in some emotional, intellectual and whimsical way.

Indeed, Twosomes encompasses these aspects of Chester’s work. The photos in the exhibition all express an emotional, intellectual, or playful aspect through their pairing.

The most interesting part about Twosomes is the level of participation it asks of its viewers; each image pair asks for its connection to be deciphered, as though inviting viewers to be a part of an interactive puzzle. Perhaps one viewer will find a humorous pattern in the photos, while another may pick up on different reasons as to why the images were paired.

“What you might find comical or funny, or whatever, may not be for another viewer,” Chester said. “That’s what’s so interesting about it. There’s no particular theme, but maybe you notice that there is more of a repetition of a theme over the others.”

Really, Twosomes is an invitation into the mind of the artist, entrusting viewers with the intimate knowledge of how Chester sees the world.

“I can’t give a definition to somebody,” Chester said. “This is what I saw. What do you see?”

See the artist’s exhibition, “Twosomes,” at the OK Harris gallery in Soho from January 28 – March 3. For more information, visit twosomes.net. Be on the lookout for Chester’s upcoming projects, posted on markchesterphotography.com.

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