Tuesday, November 23, 2010

President Obama's portrait

This is the official portrait released by the government of President Obama. This picture was taken by Pete Souza who is the, new, official White House Photographer. One interesting fact is that this is the first presidential portrait to be taken with a digital camera instead of a film camera.

This is a successful portrait of Barak Obama because of the lighting the photographer used. The photographer decided to not use dramatic lighting in order to show Obama’s happiness of becoming president. If half of Obama’s face was dark and the other half bright, then this image would take on a hole other meaning that would suggest that Obama had a dark or unpleasant side to him (which is not something that a newly elected president would want to be told). Instead the photographer uses not too bright or too dark lighting on his face which creates the feeling of soft lighting. This lighting helps the photographer bring out Obama’s sincerity as he is about to lead the United States of America.

The choice of a background is also a key piece on making this a successful portrait of a new president. By choosing to have the American flag in the background amongst a white wall expresses Obama’s patriotism. The American flag is a symbol of strength which is a quality that the American public would want in a portrait of their president. The American flag is also accompanied by a flag with the emblem of the Presidential office, this shows which position the main subject (Obama) is in. The flags are slightly out of focus, because this is not the main subject of this photograph. If the flags were in perfect focus, then it would distract the viewer from the new president. Instead having the flag out of focus, but still recognizable, shows who Obama is representing and what position he is in, but does not take away from the president. Even the facial expression of Obama is important in this photograph. Obama’s face hides his delight of becoming president, but shows his seriousness and desire to perform his job well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Please post your example of Portrait, and the critical writing in a separate Post here. The writing should include brief context and bio details - but then move into how it signifies the ideas surrounding the Portrait.

Elinor Carucci

Elinor Carucci is a Israeli photographer. She has several series, “Closer,” “Diary of a Dancer,” “Crisis,” “Comfort,” and “Pain.” Each of these series uses portraits to explore personal themes, such as family life, marital problems, or the chronic back pain she experienced for a year. Her portraits bring the audience into these personal situations and experiences. Her series “Closer” invades her family’s life. She photographs her family in intimate situations and different “home” moments, such as her grandfather in the shower, a finger with stitches, or a toilet filled with menstrual blood. This series is a magnification of the private life that strangers are not usually privy to. It’s uncomfortable and endearing.
Another series by Carucci, titled “Pain,” is composed of seven self portraits which detail her yearlong chronic back pain. In the portraits in which her face is seen, the pain is apparent. The portraits also documents the different ways which she uses to relieve the pain. The picture “Pain 11, 2003” doesn’t show Carucci’s face, however the pain, desperation, and despair in her pain is apparent. She is framed by walls on each side, isolating her body in the center of the frame. Her body is draped over a wooden pole balanced on each counter, with a saddle-like apparatus that supports her stomach. Her back fills the center of the frame, making it the focus of the photograph. Her spine meets her shoulders in an almost upside down cross. Everything comes back to her back, to the focus of her pain. Her back is not only the focus of the picture, but the most interesting part even apart from the concepts behind the photograph. The bumps of her spine, her back muscles, even the continuation of her neck from her hair hanging down out of the frame.

(Elinor's website: http://www.elinorcarucci.com/ Pain 11, 2003 is the last picture on this page: http://www.elinorcarucci.com/pain.html)

Steven Gelberg's artist

This photo was taken by Steven Gelberg and to me is a very soft and peaceful portrait. When searching for a photo this one caught my eye because the subject appears to be drawing, an art all her own, while the photographer snaps a shot of her, his art. Yet, then as i began to research the photographer I became more interested in the photo. Gelberg's work spoke to me more not because of the quality of his prints but because of his own life story and the auto biography on his website in which i could connect to because he is a lot like me in some aspects.

He was born in post war suburbia and was once a nature seeker much like myself. He then became a Vietnam war protester and what he calls himself a "counterculture rebel". After one year of college he became a world transcending Hindu monk then 17 years later went to Harvard Divinity school to study comparative religion then in 1994 photography answered his prayers and set a new path in life for him. Photography became his passion and much like myself he fell in love with the dark room and the energy that comes along with it. I believe that imagination comes through in the photographs you make with your hands, and with the chemicals that make images magically appear. Photography was his self discovery, I believe this is true for me also.

Gelberg's photo of a woman sitting in what appears to be a train station caught my eye mainly because of the looking glass and mirror effect of two artists seeing the world in different perspectives. This is a successful photograph for many reasons. First of all the subject clearly is at ease yet still nervous about maybe the person she is drawing. Also the position of her arm and tablet leave much to be wondered about. There is a sense of mystery because we cannot see what she is drawing, also there is a great tonal range that allows us to see her facial expression which leads to many more questions?

Steven Gelberg


Annie Leibovitz was born in 1949 in Waterbury, Connecticut and enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute intent on studying painting. It was not until she and her mother traveled to Japan after her sophomore year that she discovered her interest in taking photographs. In 1970, she photographed for the Rolling Stone magazine and became chief photographer just two years later. Leibovitz has photographed many celebrities such as John Lennon. She has created influential advertising campaigns for American Express and the Gap and has contributed frequently to the Got Milk? campaign. Annie Leibovitz has worked with many arts organizations, including American Ballet Theatre, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Mark Morris Dance Group, and with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her books include Annie Leibovitz: Photographs (1983), Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970–1990 (1991), Olympic Portraits (1996), Women (1999), American Music (2003), A Photographer’s Life: 1990–2005 (2006), and Annie Leibovitz at Work (2008). Exhibitions of her images have appeared at museums and galleries all over the world including the National Portrait Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery, in Washington, D.C.; the International Center of Photography, in New York; the Brooklyn Museum; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; the Centre National de la Photographie, in Paris; and the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Annie Lebovitz took this photograph of Louise Bourgeois. The composition in this image is intriguing because of the way the subject creates positive and negative space. Where Bourgeois’s hand is, really creates an interesting shape to the background. The tone of the lighting in this photograph matches the mood of the subject. There seems to be some parallelism between the wrinkles of her skin and the wrinkles of her clothes that really brings this image together. The portrait only shows a side profile of Bourgeois’s face to give a sense of mystery where the viewer does not really know what this subject has gone through.

I believe that this photograph is a successful portrait because it really captures what Louise Bourgeois portrays in her own work through sculpture. Her gesture gives a sense of anxiety while her face is expressing sadness and despair. Since the portrait only consists of one person with this somewhat depressing mood, the viewer can also draw out a feeling of loneliness and hardship. This portrait mirrors Louise Bourgeois’s own work with suggestions of the human figure and expressions of themes such as betrayal, anxiety, and loneliness.

This is a photograph taken by Richard Avedon during his time in the west photographing regular people in their everyday lives. In this picture, Richard takes a photo of a coal miner after work. Richard evokes a strong emotion with this picture, through the workers facial expression and appearance. The focus of the picture, points straight to the workers face especially the eyes. The eyes of the worker are very hard to explain. Instead of the worker looking at the camera, they are pointed lower than eye level, at if he is looking through your heart or even soul. Since the coal miner is not making eye contact, it’s as if he’s isolated and alone. Just the vantage point of his eyes made me wonder what he was thinking. Whether if he believes he even exists or if life is worth living?

Secondly, his clothing and appearance make a strong impression on the mood of the picture. Since he is a coal miner he is very dirty and tired after a hard day of work. The coal smudges add to his expression, as if he doesn’t care they’re their. Also his clothes including his overalls show that he doesn’t care for his appearance or the clothing he wears.

Avedon exposes his audiences into everyday lives of the people of the west and shows us a glimpse into how they live. Avedon successfully includes the facial expression of the coal miner as well as the context of his job to effectively produce a portrait which tells a strong narrative

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Portrait Post

This is a photo of Bill Brandt taken by Michael Birt. This photo was on display at Fulham Palace, England. Bill Brandt was an influential British photographer and photojournalist best known for his high-contrast images of British society and his distorted nudes and landscapes. In this photo, Brandt is sitting on a chair, showing some of his work.

One thing I liked about this portrait is that once you see it, you can immediately tell that he is a photographer and that he is showing examples of his work. I liked the windows in the background, which splits the background in half. I liked how his head rests in between the two windows and I also liked the curtain on the upper right and upper left edges.

I think this is a successful portrait because it tells you something about the person in it. The photo itself has a high contrast, which is what Brandt is known for. The fact that he is showing some of his own photographs (nude images, which is again what he is known for) just adds originality and authenticity to this portrait. This portrait also gives Brandt some kind of power or authority created by the low vantage point and the way Brandt stares right into the camera. The expression on his face gave me an impression that Brandt is tired of what he's been doing. How the light creates shadow on the left side of his face suggests that there might be a darker side to him that we might not know of.


This photo was taken by Rosie Hardy, an 18 year old from England. This photo shows a girl dressed as a clown, squatting on a chair in a darkened corner, looking frightened. The walls behind her have shadows of fingers pointing and grasping towards the clown.
I chose this photo for multiple reasons. It is a self-portrait, which I specifically looked for since I’m attempting self-portraiture for this project. It is also both whimsical and scary. I really enjoy the juxtaposition of the clown costume and the scary shadow puppets. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to laugh at or feel sorry for the clown. The imagery is scary enough, and also the emotional face of the clown, that I can’t help but feel sympathy for the clown.
I liked that the photo is telling a story. We are exposed to a frozen moment of this clown’s life and I also liked that Rosie made the background a part of the story as well. I think that in a lot of portraits, the background is ignored or taken away by just having a white wall to help emphasize the subject. Rosie started with a simple background (grayish mottle walls) and added elements that draws your attention to the subject even more, rather than distracting. I think that this is a successful portrait, because Rosie obviously considered all elements of the photo before taking it. She created a character of a scared clown and both dressed and expressed herself appropriately for that character, she worked the background to her advantage, instead of ignoring it, and she made sure that the lighting was perfect for both the hand shadows and for darkening the corner with the clown in it.

Monday, November 15, 2010


This is a photo of Elie Wiesel taken by Sergey Bermeniev. Elie Wiesel is a survivor of the World War II Holocaust under Hitler, and the author of 57 books, including the popular novel, Night. Also a peace activist, Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, and was called a 'messenger of mankind'. Wiesel spent time in concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald, where over three million people were killed or died from diseases.
In this photo we see Elie Wiesel's face, centered in the photograph, deranged from painful memories and a traumatic past. There are deep lines in his face from age and wear and tear that throw long shadows against the light. Part of his face is completely in shadow, though the rest of him is lit, and he seems to glow against the black background. His hair is crazy and white, and his expression is thoughtful as his gaze leaves the photograph to the right, almost disgusted as he is probably remembering what has happened to him.
I believe this is a successful portrait of Elie Wiesel because his expression clearly shows the pain he has felt, but its hesitant, like he knows that as hard as he tries to let people in, no one can really understand. Though he looks hesitant, the face is also very open and raw, letting the viewer see his inner suffering. It makes the viewer feel like an outsider. Everyone knows who Elie Wiesel is, and everyone knows what happened during the Holocaust, and how many people were killed, but few experienced it, and are alive to tell the story. It is the blatant memory of experience here that makes this portrait so strong and successful.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Faculty Throwdown, Art Event review

The crowd surrounded the two benches like spectators surrounding the ring at a boxing match. The contenders were introduced in much the same way. In one corner you had Colby Caldwell (Photography & Digital Media) and Billy Friebele (Digital Media), in the opposite corner Joe Lucchesi (European & American Art) and Lisa Scheer (Sculpture, Writing & Art Theory). After the announcer explained the rules, the 2010 Faculty Throwdown was about to begin!

In the first round, the question under discussion was: True or false, Art is the moral compass for society? Money was suggested as the true moral compass for society. Money makes the world go ‘round, and even artists “sell out” and take money because they need it to continue their craft. It was countered that feeling, not reason was the basis for morality, and feeling cuts through the superficial materiality of money.

I feel that creative artistic expression is something that can only be done when you have the time to do so. In order to have leisure time, you need money to facilitate things like buying food and supplies. Money can act as the moral compass of society because money is society’s way of stating, indirectly what it finds to be valuable.

In the next round, the question was: which is more important in the defense of Freedom: Guns or Art? Both sides of this debate brought up several interesting points. It was argued that in simple dollars spent, weaponry far exceeds any other government expenditure, which was countered by the point that debates over art are much louder than debates over defense. The point was made that art has almost unlimited purview, whereas the defense of weapons, like handguns, is much more limited, which was countered by the argument that WMDs were still of a great concern, that weapons drive society, art drives academia.

For this question, it is much harder to pronounce a clear winner. Weapons can protect us physically, but Art protects us mentally. It’s impossible to express yourself with a gun at your back, but without a gun to protect yourself, that can very well be what happens. In the end, however, I would have to side that Art is more important in the defense of freedom, but you have to be free enough to be able to express that freedom.

The third round dealt with limits of free speech concerning visual art. With no limits on free speech, art can be used to promote hate speech, but community standards are more exclusionary that inclusive. Without limits, there is no difference between the gallery wall and the bathroom wall, but with limits, the issues that are highlighted by art are less likely to be discussed.

This round of debate was another tough call. John Stuart Mill states “An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard.” Essentially, what Mill is saying here is that context is very important to when and how views are expressed. Art is bound to offend someone, somewhere, and when that happens it is important to debate the issue and get to the root of the problem. It is problematic when art is meant to shock or offend, and there is no such debate that takes place, because there ought to be. Ultimately then, I would say that there should be no limit on the freedom of expression of art if a discussion of the issues raised by that art can take place.

The next round asked each participant to name, in the last decade, which work had the greatest impact of society. In this round, one debater chose, James Turrell’s Roden Crater, because it was the embodiment of how art shapes the Earth, the Earth connects to the mind, and connects us to prehistory. Shepard Fairey’s Barack Obama "Hope" was the next work to be cited, because of the extreme significance of the image and its incredible dissemination into the popular culture. Stephen Colbert was cited as the greatest performance artist, because he is able to take issues at present them in a way that will promote discussion and thought about them in a way that does not immediately exclude anyone. Lastly, The Holy Virgin Mary, by Chris Ofili was chosen as an important work because it caused debate over the public funding of art.

I would have to say clearly that Barack Obama Hope has had the most impact on society over the last decade. Art is meant to be seen, and no piece of art has done so more than Hope. Colbert would be a close second, because he is seen and he does promote discussion, but he ranks second, because Hope was disseminated so quickly to a huge audience, while Colbert is seen by people who have access to Comedy Central.

The second-to-last question in the debate was: Can Art ever be divorced from Politics? It was argued that even having no position is, in itself, a position. When we can’t respond to something in a framework, it’s prepolitical. It was also argued that the real question here was what sphere should art occupy? Should it be public or sequestered, and can society and art exist without serious conflict? My opinion is that both politics and art are social expressions of the people, and that unless there’s complete agreement, there’s always going to be conflict over art in politics.

The last question dealt with what the role of intentionality was in Art. It was argued that intention is important to understand on the receptive side, and that intention was important to understand as related to context. Both points of view here are equally valid, and I am not of an opinion on either of them (which means that I hold an opinion anyway)

At the beginning, 4 Professors entered, and at the end only 1 left alive. Professor Colby Caldwell was pronounced the master debater, and gained the bragging rights he so rightly deserved. The Event as a whole was a great success that should gather crowds for years to come, and if I wasn’t graduating, I’d come back for this event next year.