The Creation of a Portrait

by Natalie on May 20, 2014 · 3 comments

 

Artist Statement:

As humans we have a general longing to understand and share who we are. Portraiture is an outlet for us. For centuries, portraits have been a way for people to present themselves exactly how they want, highlighting certain interests or facial features. This general goal of portraiture creates a visual code by which we expect to interpret all portraits. We relate everything in a representation (even its material) to the subject’s identity. For example, we expect a portrait to illustrate the subject’s accomplishments or aspirations. Or we might expect it to include the subject’s possessions, a favorite place, or a loved one. The problem remains, however, that a person simply cannot be understood or known through an image or even through millions of images.

Here, I present a few portraits that I have taken over the past few months. Rather than being executed in a traditional or popular way, they are all shot from my subjects’ perspective. As a result, the viewer sees what my subjects would have seen during the portrait session. The boxes that the portraits are in, and the varying heights at which they are placed encourage the viewer to imagine they are within my subject’s head and to realize the impossibility of such a situation. By including myself in the images, I remind the viewer that every portrait has necessarily been contrived by an artist and thus is even further removed from giving a perfectly neutral impression of the subject.

The mirror in the portraits serves two purposes. First and foremost, by reflecting something that is not in the image, it blurs the boundary between the physical space of the viewer and the represented space of the photograph. This is a method used in various art historical pieces, including Velasquez’s painting “Las Meninas”. Secondly, the mirror alludes to the shallowness of a two-dimensional likeness. No portrait, however perfect a representation, will ever fudge the boundary between “me” and “that other person”.

 

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The above photograph shows the installation of a few portraits. Each box was placed at the height of my subject during that person’s portrait session. For example, if my subject was seated, I placed the box relatively low on wall and positioned a chair in front of it. Where more than one person was involved, I averaged heights. While the photographs were on display, viewers walked through the installation, standing on tip toe, squatting, or sitting to peer through the 6×2″ holes in order to see the photographs inside.

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{ 3 comments }

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