The photographs in the following three exhibitions show up with different points of view about what defines a portrait. Allegory and Illusion looks at the form of the painted photograph, popular in 19th-century India and Nepal. An aspect of About Face explores global diversity in contemporary photographic portraiture since 2000. And the portraits inGulu Fine Art Studio, though faceless, provide us with a surprising amount of information about the individual sitters.

 

Rubin Museum of Art, New York

Allegory and Illusion: Early Portrait Photography from South Asia

Through February 10, 2014

 

Allegory and Illusion presents approximately 120 photographs and a selection of albums, glass-plate negatives, cabinet cards, cartes-de-visite, and postcards that illustrate the tradition of portrait photography in India, Burma, Sri Lanka, and Nepal from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Royal court portraits are shown alongside photographs of the middle class—often circulated as cartes-de-visite—that explore the democratizing aspect of photography.

The photographs, which are drawn from the Alkazi Collection of Photography, reveal an alternate history of 19th-century India that reflects a transition between Mughal culture and British rule, as seen, for example, in late 19th-century photographs that reference miniature painting. The exhibition looks at the form of the painted photograph, popular in India and Nepal in the 19th century, for both artistic purposes and as a gesture toward realism. Visitors can take their own portrait photographs in a studio setting with authentic 19th-century backdrops.

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Kansas City, Missouri    

About Face: Contemporary Portraiture

Through January 19, 2014

 

About Face explores identity and individuality, as well as the breadth and global diversity of contemporary photographic portraiture since 2000. Twenty-nine artists from the United States, England, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Iran and South Africa are represented. There is also an online collaboration with FlakPhoto.com.

“Contemporary photographers approach portraiture from multiple perspectives, and this exhibition reflects that diversity,” comments April M. Watson, co-curator with Jane L. Aspinwall. “Some portraits emphasize the construction of identity through race, gender, and class, while others question the relationships between individuality and typology, or the impact of the media on self-presentation. Some use antiquated processes such as daguerreotypes or tintypes to make portraits of contemporary subjects.” At the core of the project is the relationship of the photographer and the subject, and how that interaction translates into the final portrait.

 

The Walther Collection Project Space, New York

Gulu Real Art Studio

Through February 8, 2014

 

While waiting for her own photos to be printed at the Gulu Real Art Studio in Gulu, Uganda, photographer Martina Bacigalupo noticed a studio portrait with a void where the sitter’s face should be. When she asked Obal Denis, the studio photographer, about the image, he explained that his standard ID photo equipment made four prints at a time. If someone wanted only one photo, it was easier for him to take a simple large portrait and cut the picture to show only the face. The rest of the print would be discarded.

Bacigalupo soon became so fascinated with the leftover photographic artifacts that she started to collect the rejects. Edited from hundreds of discarded images, Bacigalupo’s collection of 90 prints represents a typological cross-section of Gulu society today, including nurses, soldiers, farmers, teachers, nuns, and students. The cutouts heighten the viewer’s attention to detail; distinctions are established through clothing, poses, and gestures. With more scrutiny, other more subtle markers of identity slowly become visible.

Bacigalupo later returned to Gulu to interview customers in the studio and a video of these interviews is presented as part of the exhibition. The resulting narrative illustrates the life in the town and the resilience of its community during the recent wars in East Africa.

 

 

Spotlight

 

Paris Photo

Grand Palais, Paris

November 14-17

 

Founded in 1996, Paris Photo is considered the most prestigious art fair dedicated to historical and contemporary photography. Over the past 16 years, it has become a significant event for collectors of contemporary and modern art, photography professionals, and artists, as well as a growing audience of art appreciators. Built around cultural events involving artists, art world professionals, collectors, and cultural institutions, the fair also offers public programs. It includes 135 international galleries, more than 20 of which are new, as well as 27 publishers and booksellers.