This story from Esquire magazine showed up in my Facebook feed this morning:
Photographer Victoria Will has used the tintype photographic process — common in the latter part of the 1800s — to make a series of portraits of celebrities attending the Sundance Film Festival. (For a video on the tintype photographic process, watch this: http://vimeo.com/34579312). On Monday in class we’ll be talking about different ways of interpreting photographs. What would Roland Barthes say about these portraits? How does the style produced by the tintype process change our perception of contemporary celebrities? Personally, I like the ones portraying William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Nick Cave. The detailed way that Macy’s facial features and hair make him stand out from the background, giving the image a kind of three-dimensionality that the others don’t have. I also like the disturbed psychological quality of Hoffman’s portrait. His disheveled hair and clothes are complemented by the scratches and smudges on the surface of the picture. In Nick Cave’s picture, I like the low, off-center framing of his face and body. It seems appropriate to use a nineteenth-century medium to render his Gothic black hair and facial features.
Which portraits do you like best? How do their formal qualities (surface texture, color, shape, line, composition) express particular meanings? Comment below, or think about these questions and we’ll talk about them on Monday. Have a good weekend!