With the invention of photography, access to portraiture expanded dramatically. Face-Off: Confronting Portraiture brings together works by fifteen contemporary artists who take the complex history of portrait photography as their subject, and in some cases, portrait photographs as their object. From 19th century cartes de visite to 21st century selfies, portrait photographs have served as a means for individuals to represent themselves to the world. Portrait photography also has been used as a scientific and documentary tool, often perpetuating negative stereotypes. The photographs included in Face-Off subvert the conventions of portrait photography, revealing contemporary artists’ concern with the fluidity of identity and emphasizing the performative quality of portraiture.
Sylvia de Swann, Paula and I at the Jewish Cemetery in Cluj, Romania (1994), from the Return series (ongoing). Gelatin silver print. William Benton Museum of Art, Gift of Sylvia de Swann.