Personality: The Contemporary Portrait
A juried international photography exhibition
September 23 – October 13, 2014
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Portraiture emerged as one of the prominent genres of depictive media early in the history of the visual arts, and the tacit or explicit rules or expectations of the given socio-historical context always influenced the ways artists approached the genre. Photography is no exception; throughout its history characteristic styles of portraiture emerged. Photography has revived the genre several times, and now we live in a historically unique era; never before has portraiture been practised as widely as it is these days. From amateurs to professionals, and everybody in between, from commercial to fine art portraits, from spontaneous selfies to elaborately planned and executed photo shoots, portraits are presented to us to learn about the personality of the subjects through the interpretation of the photographer.
Ross Laurence Anderson (St. Paul, MN, USA), Ronald Beverly (Bowie, MD, USA), Eduardo Cañas (Alhambra, CA, USA), Brut Carniollus (Radovljica, Slovenia), Khalil Charif (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Yoko Haraoka (Astoria, NY, USA), Kip Harris (Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada), Teri Havens (Marble, CO, USA), Catherine Holmes (Byron Bay, Australia), Amy Karki (Portland, OR, USA), Laura Knapp (Allston, MA, USA), Nicholas Kozel (St. Paul, MN, USA), Lodiza LePore (Bennington, VT, USA), John MacKenzie (Alameda, CA, USA), Dan McCormack (Accord, NY, USA), Trevor Messersmith (New York, NY, USA), Karin Ott (Copenhagen, Denmark), Christine Pearl (Washington, DC, USA), Thomas Szydelko (Oak Lawn, IL, USA), Ann Tracy (Portland, ME, USA), Willem Wernsen (Amersfoort, Netherlands)
Please click on the names to see contact information (website or e-mail) where available.
High quality (ProLine Pearl Photo paper) exhibition catalogue is published with Blurb Books. (Please note that for some reason Blurb's preview is low resolution. It is suitable for studying the design and layout of the catalogue, but it does not always present the photographs faithfully. The print catalogue, however, is professional high quality.)
Portraiture is often considered a central subject in photography, as there are probably very few photographers who have managed not to engage with it in one form or another. As the most creative responses to this theme clearly show, the practice is as alive and progressive today as it has ever been.
Juror’s choice Self-portrait (Polka Dot Blanket) by Laura Knapp is a multiply self-reflexive work. This is due, in part, to the inherent self-referential aspect of the self as a subject, but also to the specific construction of her work. The initial choice of irony is carried through with consistent discipline. There are ample ways of focusing our attention to the face of the person portrayed, but Knapp pushed the photographic choices to the max by encircling her face with the polka dot patterned blanket. The repetitive pattern around and the few lines partly formed by the arms beneath directly draw the attention to the face of our subject. The dark patch of her hair provides a pronounced contrast not only with the polka dot pattern but also with her face. The way the face is presented may be taken as a comment on photographic portraiture itself; instead of depicting elaborate features, her expression is almost frozen into a mask with the lips, the eyebrows and the eyes emphasized. Portraying a face turned into a mask in the context of repetitive dots is already a strong statement, frustrating our usual expectations with which we approach portraits, her eyes, however, provide a final and powerful twist. Compositionally the eyes interact with the blanket, reacting to and re-acting the dotted pattern, and they also emphasize the mask-like character of her face. As a result, we are taken aback by the eyes wide open, fearing and mocking our gaze at the same time.
Ross Anderson’s Persona No. 1 and Persona No. 6 received a joint honourable mention, as the two portraits interact with each other almost as in a diptych. Although compositional unity may only be noticed first in the framing and positioning of the heads, upon closer examination we explore the interplay of the patterns of light and shadow, attracting our attention to all the minute details of the two faces. The Painter Msa in His Studio, Johannesburg by Nick Kozel forcefully draws us into the life of the painter. The mesmerizing visual blending of the picture in the background and the painter’s head and shoulder makes us look again and again to see how it is even possible that he is looking at us almost out of his picture. La Donna Romana is the third honourable mention by Trevor Messersmith. Evoking strong visual impressions of the golden age of the Italian cinema, the image is a beautiful portrayal of passionate devotion in the barren place. She is observant and serious, and we feel almost certain that she is studying us, as if our roles in front of and behind the camera were reversed.
Autopsy No. 5 by Khalil Charif challenges our usual perceptual access to people’s faces by approaching from an unusual perspective and with an unusual tongue action. Yoko Haraoka’s Frankie Cicero is part of a self-portrait series in which Haraoka not only takes on different identities, but she does so in the disturbing mugshot context. Wedding Musician, Agra by Kip Harris portrays a musician through an almost faceless portrait, allowing us to look into the sad, disillusioned eyes in between the hat and the arrogantly empty trumpet. Teri Havens’ Charlotte and Jerry with Turtles forcefully turn our attention to the fragile edge of existence, where companionship is no longer to be found among humans. Intangible World by Catherine Holmes puts our perception to the test again, not even giving us more than outlines, vague shapes and vivid colours. Christine Pearl’s Monk shows calm sobriety beautifully out of place. Willem Wernsen’s Gerrit Jan is the wise elderly friend whose stern advice might just turn out to be the most precious.
All the works in this exhibit reach for the human, the frail, the brave, the mocking and the mysterious. Contemporary portraiture performs strong, worthy to its predecessors.