STAGE: Photographic Portraits


Untitled, Frank Pimentel, n.d.

Untitled, Frank Pimentel, n.d.

January 11 – February 2, 2011

Legacy Maltwood (at Mearns Centre – McPherson Library)

Curated by Emma Conner, Toby Lawrence, Karen Merrifield & Holly Romanow

Showcasing the works of Frank Pimentel, Nina Raginsky and Ulli Steltzer, STAGE challenges the viewers to look beyond the aesthetic qualities of photographs to investigate the dichotomy of construction versus reality.

In looking at photographic portraiture there is a conflicting duality. The initial assumption is a presentation of reality, yet historically, portraiture was often staged, with subjects posed in front of painted backgrounds, accompanied by objects to augment certain elements of character. In the same sense, portraits by photographers Pimentel, Raginsky and Steltzer in the late twentieth century are constructions of their individual perceptions. Each with their own variation of portrait photography, the images provoke questioning into the significance of their compositional elements.

While the creation of the photograph is inherently determined by what the eye is able to see, the capture of something we perceive to be real instigates the reanalysis of our reality. The real movement becomes a constructed image, subject to point of view and created through the vision of the individual photographer. Like paintings and drawings, photographs are essentially the photographer’s own interpretation of the world. Raginsky states, “These photographs probably have little to do with an ordinary sense of reality; they are my particular stance on the world that I find at times to be rather thoughtless and brutal and difficult to endure.” Portrait photography has the ability to distort; yet also offers evidence into the existence of the subject or circumstances as they were at the time of the photograph.

As an alternate way of experiencing reality, the action of taking the photograph transforms the photographer into an active participant, the voyeur taking control of the situation. In this manner we experience authority held by the photograph itself, and we are forced, here, to make our own conclusions about the construction of spaces and placement of the subjects or the true documentary character of the photos. Within distinctly different constructions of photography we must decipher what choices have been made and why, questioning the character and the truth of the photographs and how their environments change their subjects, complicate them, bolster them.