Jul 24, 2007

in bed with photographers

I'm an acute admirer of Amy Elkins' portraiture, so I was pleased to find she posted the following photo on her blog a few days ago of Richard Renaldi:

© Amy Elkins

The tone of this photo, to me, is devastating. His expression, the slow heat from his brow, the perfect marriage of color between the sheets and window. It's quietly brutal. tense and light all at once. All of it, perfect.

This has gotten me thinking about photographers making photos of other photographers. It's been done to good effect by some, and it's always intrigued me. It's the idea of the sitter being acutely aware of what is happening on the other side of the camera. Sometimes you can see the understanding, almost an empathy.

The photo of Renaldi however, had me also thinking of beds. of course beds, as objects and symbols, have a long history in photography- from Walker Evans to Ryan McGinley (there's a stretch), and Renaldi himself. i'm interested though with Amy's photo in the bed as a means for a portraiture environment.

it's been used for self portraits over the years. One of my favorite photos (portrait or not) is the following Stephen Shore image:

© Stephen Shore

Robert Maplethorp was a little more abstract:

© Robert Mapplethorpe

And, Lee Friedlander preferred to leave himself out of this image. The point of view however put him firmly at the head of the bed, and almost gives the viewer the sense of a self portrait, even though Friedlander himself never enters the frame.

© Lee Friedlander

However, with Amy's photo of Richard in bed, she has turned this place of self reflection, and reflected on another. Certainly not new- the bedroom is probably on of the most common places for the average portrait- but the fact that Richard is a photographer himself adds layers to the story I think.

I love the fact that she has taken this seemingly intimate place, the bedroom, and stripped down (figuratively) another photographer there. The vulnerability, I suppose, is in the knowing- the knowledge on the receiving end of just how much power is being wielded on the other side of the glass. Amy has allowed Richard to be something else- not a photographer but, someone being photographed. Richard has relinquished all of his power, and the result is wonderful.


Pod said...

thanks for this mr huff
hope all is well

mro said...

The relinqueshment of all power...or does Richard have all the power in this picture?

I found myself pondering this a lot...maybe too much. As a photographer and subject, there's presumably a reciprocal relationship. Richard retains the power of expression, particularly in full knowledge of what the camera is seeing; maybe it is Amy as photographer who relinquishes her power to the viewer. For her, power is her ability to translate reality into an image; an image that draws the viewer into a deeper place than just seeing a person on a bed.

It seems to me that there's a vulnerabilty to being a writer or photographer...much more so than being a subject?

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