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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

This Portrait is not a Portrait: Oh yes it is

"The photographs are not meant to be portraits, which is why they have no titles. It is not my intention to give expression to their personality or state of mind. Nor do I want to sketch a sociological image of contemporary youth or girls at the moment of puberty. I look for a certain mood in the pictures, in which the girls almost figure as actors. As a matter of fact I treat my models as objects which you can direct and guide. They are simply material for me."

So says Hellen van Meene, but it was a long time ago so perhaps she's changed her mind. Still, it is a bit like Magritte's pipe. The pipe's not a pipe, but the picture... the picture of the pipe is not the pipe. It's the same with the portrait. Saying the portrait is not a portrait is fine, but it doesn't mean it is the case at all.. The girl is not a girl, but the portrait is a portrait.


J. Wesley Brown said...

I think she's trying to say that a portrait can't really give you any insight into the complexity of what is is to be a being. She's saying they're just actors or subjects in a picture she's making, much like a tree would be. I feel that way too and deal with it in one of my series.

So my question is then, what makes a portrait? Are Alex Prager's girls portrait subjects or merely actors? Are Crewdson's? Are they really portraits? How would we define portrait?

colin pantall said...

You're right J.W., but at the same time it is still a portrait - it doesn't matter if the character is real, fictional or in the photographic semi-halflight of staged - it's still a portrait, just as Prager's or some of Crewdson's are.

What makes a portraits? Good question because we all have assumptions we make.