Thursday, October 16, 2008

Powerful Portraiture

What timing for a show like the Corcoran’s exhibition of Richard Avedon’s Portraits of Power. As the country sits poised watching the presidential face off for the white house, this collection brings together not just the names and faces of the Washington political scene but players from all layers of the century’s power struggles.
Acclaimed as one of the America’s pre-eminent editorial portraitist and fashion photographer’s, we literally walk through the past 50 years of history starting with a pixilated grey shot of a glaze eyed Oppenheimer, perfectly appropriate for the genius behind the splitting of particles.
Though most shots are black and white on white background shot with an 8 x 10 lens, there are a few color images, like that of Barack Obama from the 2004 Democratic convention. At that point, still just the junior senator from Illinois, we are drawn particularly close to him. (Camera technique used to pull his head closer in focus than his body)
While former Sec. of State Kessinger was being photographed, he asked Avedon to “be kind,” clearly referring to the power the photographer had over his image. Interesting that it came from one of the most powerful men in the country.
Toward the middle of the exhibit stood a huge picture titled, Napalm victim #2. Completely disfigured and obviously blind, she stands next to an 11x14 head shot of a decorated Vietnam war hero shamelessly cheesing just four days after her portrait was taken.
With the power of his images not simply resting in the titles of his sitters, its no wonder one of his greatest followers is Annie Leibowitz. 

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