At a first glance, 'Oysters (2005)' (2012) appears to be a stock image of a plate of a half-dozen oysters, nestled in a bed of ice. The beauty of the image lures us in, invites viewers to indulge in the exquisiteness of the details - the fine veins in the oyster flesh, the luminosity of the chopped ice. Oysters have long been a standard feature of classic still life compositions (they have become "kitch-classical" subject matter, in Ethridge's words), and maintain an allusion to luxury or to a certain kind of lifestyle. But closer inspection of this photograph reveals off-key notes: the fork is worn down and the table is a bit scruffy. The oysters themselves are imperfect as well, slightly small and cloudy. In fact, they are seeding, "not the best time to eat an oyster" as the artist comments.
"I'm interested in the capacity for an image to charge something ordinary," Ethridge has said, "or to present something f***ed-up in a straightforward, "objective" way." The very details that draw us in also undo our automatic reading of the image, and in doing so gives us reason to question our immediate response to images.