Mosaic tile panel in the form of a gateway

Philippe Halsman, Dalí Atomicus, 1948, Gelatin silver print, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, 1978/2.30



Artistic Impositions in the Photographic Portrait

July 5–October 19, 2014

Susan Sontag claimed that photographs “owe their existence to a loose cooperation (quasi-magical, quasi-accidental) between photographer and subject.” Any photographic portrait marks an encounter between the person executing the image and the person posing for it. The sixteen photographs included in this exhibition speak to an especially charged collaboration between photographer and model in that they are all portraits of artists.

When a photographer is faced with a subject who is so thoroughly invested in artistic representation, how might this impact his or her own photographic aesthetic? In this suite of remarkable photographs, we witness different manifestations of this phenomenon at work. For example, we see results ranging from the surreal to the seemingly straightforward through encounters between Salvador Dalí and Philippe Halsman; Frida Kahlo and Manuel Álvarez Bravo; and Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. In other cases the photographer intentionally frames the photographic subject alongside the artist’s own work of art so that they become compelling participants in their own painted or sculptural compositions.

This exhibition invites viewers to consider how the difficult task of representing another artist is productively accomplished through the collaborative aesthetic resonances discernable between model and photographer in these portraits.     

Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Health System.