The Portrait Experience

Presented at the Whistler House Museum of Art, Lowell, Massachusetts
September 9, 2017 to November 4, 2017

 

“A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion.”
    Richard Avedon


Failure, in creating portraits, is not only an option, it is a prerequisite. When I think of my failed attempts at creating portraits, they occurred at times when I lacked the courage to connect with my subject, to try to cajole or elicit something from them, and I ended up having made photographs that were nervous, tenuous, and worst of all, safe.

A portrait isn't simply a headshot, but neither is it a vision into a person's soul, as is often suggested. In the end the portrait is really just an image of the physical person in front of the camera. But it is not simply a "likeness". It is the manifestation of a collaboration between the artist and the subject. The subject is one of the performers in an intricate dance in which a fraction of a second is captured that hopefully tells a story. That story can be true, or complete fiction, and that's the trick. What happens in that fraction of a second can be the difference between a portrait and simply a photograph of a person.