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I am delighted to have had the opportunity to jury the exhibition, "Portraiture: Expression and Gesture," because I have long thought portraits a particularly difficult genre to judge. Somehow, portraits call for a more personal investment on the part of their makers, whether they record an interaction with a loved one or that of a complete stranger. This very human response to another individual is tough to translate through a photograph and when one adds in the representation of powerful emotion the challenge becomes even greater. Expressions can easily turn into caricatures when frozen in time by the camera. Sometimes emotion can be expressed in a simple gesture rather than in one's features and a few of my favorite pictures portray, for example, a hand raised to fend off a photographer's advances or the remarkably human smile on the face of a billy goat whose head pokes out through a fence.
I was once again impressed by the breadth of work submitted and, in this case, by the broad definition of what constitutes a portrait. From an extreme close-up view that turns an elderly face into a kind of topographical map, to a soft-focus image that dissolves into a spectral form rather than an individual likeness; here the subjects range from drag queens to farmers, brides to musicians, and cowboys to everyday people. In some instances the sitters obviously collaborate with the photographer and in others they are completely oblivious to their presence. The lack of self-consciousness that comes with not knowing may also explain why so many of the most successful portraits are of children, who are usually very easy and natural before the camera, whether lost in their own private worlds, peeking out from behind masks, or laughing out loud in the middle of the street.
- Karen Haas
Karen Haas is Curator of The Lane Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The unprecedented collection of over 6000 images includes 2500 photographs by Edward Weston, the entire photographic estate of Charles Sheeler, and 500 works by Ansel Adams. Arbus, Brancusi, Bravo, Cunningham, Frank, Fuss, Goldin, Kertesz, Lange, Michals, Modotti, Morell, Penn, Steichen, Strand, Sudek, and many more round out the amalgam of masters over which Ms. Haas watch. We are so pleased Karen Haas has agreed to return to the task of jurying for PhotoPlace Gallery. Her keen eye and experience are perfectly suited for the exhibition "Portraiture: Expression and Gesture."
A flicker of a smile, a twinkle in the eyes, a subtle gesture of the hand, the blur of spontaneous movement—photography is uniquely capable of capturing the briefest slice of a subject's life. Good portraits give us insight into the subject; great portraits can give us insight into what it is to be human. For Portraiture: Expression and Gesture, we sought portraits (self- or otherwise) that informed us about the subject.
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