Today I went to an art event that presented a segment from the BBC series, The Genius of Photography, called “We Are Family.” This particular part of the series focuses on the notion of the self portrait, the interaction between the photographer and the subject, and whether or not a self portrait really reveals the subject’s personality, humanity, etc. Among the featured artists in this segment were Tony Vaccaro, Larry Clark, Araki, and Sally Mann. Having never heard of these artists before, watching this documentary really inspired me to take out my 35 mm camera and shoot some photographs. All of the artists featured were extraordinary. A common theme that I found in this segment was that each artist tended to do very informal portraits of their subjects. Instead of positioning families or individual people inside a portrait studio and having them say “cheese!,” the photographers got right up in their subjects personal space, waiting for the perfect moment to snap a picture. As Sally Mann put it, you cannot simply ask a person to give you a good picture, THEY “have to give it to you.” I believe Vaccaro said that he tries to find the one accurate word to describe his subject, then tries to find the perfect way to embody that word by taking the photograph at the perfect moment.
Probably the most intriguing artist for me was Larry Clark, his book Tulsa in particular. This book features graphic images of normal teenagers from Tulsa, Oklahoma shooting amphetamine and performing sexual acts on each other. I found a preview of this book on Google, and Larry Clark prefaces the book with the line ” once the needle goes in, it never comes out.” Despite the fact that he moved out of Tulsa and kicked his amphetamine habit, he apparently has shot up numerous times since. This eerie line alone makes me want to buy the book. The picture above is from “Tulsa.”
We were also shown a short 3 minute clip of an installation artist named Ann Hamilton. I am not fully sure as to how she pulls this off, but essentially she puts a piece of film into her mouth and holds her mouth open letting the light hit it and thus creating a picture of what ever is in front of her mouth. Whats interesting is that the image that results is framed around her open mouth, which resembles the shape of the human eye.