I/Eye: On Photography

Portrait (palladium print)

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on April 24, 2012
Boy with bihawk (palladium print, 2012) © Sheila Newbery

Boy with bihawk (palladium print, 2012) © Sheila Newbery

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Portrait

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on November 25, 2011
(Berkeley, 2010) © Sheila Newbery

(Berkeley, 2010) © Sheila Newbery

Annette with drum

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on September 2, 2011
Annette with Brazilian drum (2008) © Sheila Newbery

Annette with Brazilian drum (2008) © Sheila Newbery

Flight Simulator

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on August 29, 2011
Untitled (Berkeley, 2011) © Sheila Newbery

Untitled (Berkeley, 2011) © Sheila Newbery

‘Death and the Maiden’

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on July 26, 2011
R. at the mausoleum (Oakland, 2011) © Sheila Newbery

R. at the mausoleum (Oakland, 2011) © Sheila Newbery

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Portrait

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on July 19, 2011

Contact print on antique Kodak Ektalure…

Portrait of Linda Elvira Piedra, photographer (Oakland, 2008) © Sheila Newbery

Portrait of Linda Elvira Piedra, photographer (Oakland, 2008) © Sheila Newbery

Juxtaposition: Danielle and Victorine

Posted in Juxtaposition, portraits by Sheila Newbery on June 11, 2011

“He has the gift to capture dominant tones in their delicacy.”  — Emile Zola on Edouard Manet, from Salons (Paris, 1959), p. 92; quoted in Mona Hadler, “Manet’s Woman with a Parrot”, Metropolitan Museum Journal. The Victorine of this post’s title is, of course, Manet’s red-headed model, Victorine Meurent, who was also his Olympia (1865).

Woman with Parrot (1866) by Edouart Manet

Woman with Parrot (1866) by Edouart Manet

Meurent modeled for Manet a number of times, and for other painters as well, eventually becoming a painter herself. She exhibited in the 1876 Paris Salon (a year when Manet was rejected) and exhibited there again in subsequent years, while continuing to support herself by modeling. Mona Hadley’s discussion of the painting’s iconography in the above-mentioned source points out that the eye-piece dangling from a cord round Meurent’s neck is in fact a man’s monocle — not the popular feminine accoutrement, the lorgnette. Manet presents her here as both charismatic and fashionable society woman, but with an enticing clue as to her charm: a certain transgressive boldness held in reserve.

It’s impossible to know whether Victorine’s modeling led her to painting or vice versa. The bare chronology suggests the former evolution: from model to painter. I’ve wondered whether a sitter’s entanglement in Soth’s impetus to make a portrait has ever resulted in a similar transformation. Does his model here think about what it’s like to wield the 8×10 view camera? Her attitude is guarded yet calm; to me, she looks prepared. Her momentary disruption of the surrounding geometry conveys an assertive idea in subtle tones: I hold you in my gaze.

Danielle (Liverpool, UK, 2004) by Alec Soth

Danielle (Liverpool, UK, 2004) by Alec Soth

In praise of curiosity: Yvette Dostatni’s conventioneers

Posted in Other Photographers, portraits by Sheila Newbery on June 9, 2011

Yvette Dostatni’s work was selected for Review Santa Fe 2010. A Chicago resident, she is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune Magazine, Chicago Magazine and The Chicago Reader. In 2000, she was selected as one of eight full-time photographers to document the city of Chicago, with funding from the Comer Foundation. She is also the winner of two consecutive ‘Magazine Photographer of the Year’ awards for portraiture. All photographs reproduced here with the kind permission of the artist.

2010 C2E2 Comic Book Convention © Yvette Dostatni

2010 C2E2 Comic Book Convention © Yvette Dostatni

The people in Yvette Dostatni’s conventioneer portraits are optimists: they hunt for opportunity — whether this means scrounging for merchandise under a table at a comic book convention or sidling into a throng of aging peroxide beauties at a cougarfest. Even individuals who seem immune to optimism are fortunate to be in the company of those who can shoulder the burden for two: a woman standing next to her phlegmatic companion in a double portrait of polka conventioneers is haloed by a wide-brimmed hat, as if to convey that proximity to her is shelter enough against life’s adversity (or indifference); her partner’s arm around her shoulders signals a tacit faith. There’s a matter-of-factness, too, about the appurtenances of trade, and if we sometimes sense the whetted alacrity of an incipient sales-pitch in a merchant’s gaze, it’s not an outright leer, nor are we burdened by any aversion on the photographer’s part. The things of the world (and there is much stuff in these photographs!), however exotic or strange, are pictured with a measured delectation, as if to say: this is life’s emporium. Step right up.

2009 Pet Industry Trade Show © Yvette Dostatni

2009 Pet Industry Trade Show © Yvette Dostatni

The thread that runs through Dostatni’s portrait work is not, to my eye, social isolation or marginality (as one commentator recently suggested); it’s rather…confidence. Her subjects know there’s something to be gained from donning the masks and costumes, fashioning the balloon bracelets, wearing the barbie hats — or, more to the point, from being surrounded by others who do the same. It’s an aspect of our national character which these photographs frankly consider: our collective embrace of this prodigious, psychic engine of optimism.

Dostatni’s style is forthright and unfussy. Her photographs are conceived with an alert, unapologetic curiosity; she clearly relishes the descriptive opportunities afforded by the medium, and it’s this very unabashedness of the work, expressed as a confidence in her subjects, that strikes the note of authenticity.

2003 Midwest FurFest © Yvette Dostatni

2003 Midwest FurFest © Yvette Dostatni

2009 Beatlefest © Yvette Dostatni

2009 Beatlefest © Yvette Dostatni

Portrait

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on May 31, 2011
Untitled (Brooklyn, 2010) © Sheila Newbery

Untitled (Brooklyn, 2010) © Sheila Newbery

Self-portrait: Walker Evans

Posted in portraits by Sheila Newbery on May 27, 2011
Self-portrait (1927) © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Self-portrait (1927) © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

See also: self-portraits by James Luckett, Carla Williams, and Anne Collier.

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