Saturday, June 18, 2011


It's common folklore that dogs tend to look like their owners, and perhaps there is some truth to that.

Bulldogs, New York, 1988, Elliott Erwitt

But what about photographers? Judging by the pictures in George Barr's recently published book Why Photographs Work a case could be made that, at least in some circles, photographs often resemble their makers. For example compare Louie Palu's photograph in the book:

Front Toward's Enemy, 2008, Louie Palu

With his portrait:

Louie Palu

Or look at Craig Richards and his photo:

Vincente, Nebaj El Quiche, 1990, Craig Richards

Craig Richards

The book features the examples above along with 50 other pairs, with short writeups on the photos and the photographers.

For me the artist portraits are the most interesting material in the book. I can find fine art photographs in many places, sometimes accompanied by words describing why they work. But it's not often that I get to see what the people behind the images look like. Many are quite revealing. I'm telling you, people look like their photos.

I admit the photos above are acute examples. In most cases the resemblance is less literal. It's more of a feeling shared by both photograph and image. For example doesn't this picture,

Franciscan Church Vilnius 2001, Roman Loranc

look it might be made by this photographer?

Roman Loranc

I don't know much about Mr. Loranc but his portrait tells me that he takes his art seriously, and that he takes seriously the art of being taken seriously. So it's no surprise that his chapel photo demands to be taken seriously too.

This self-conscious seriousness seems to be the book's unifying theme. No snapshots or silliness allowed. Despite that limitation I think there is enough variety to identify particular styles with particular portraits.

To test that theory I've designed a quiz. Below are 9 portraits of photographers in the book side by side with 9 of their photographs displayed in random order. Your task is to match letters and numbers (Command-minus to fit them all on a page, or click through images to see them enlarged). Answers below.


1 (C).Lawrence Christmas, Cape Breton Miners, 2004; 2 (I). George Jerkovitch, Sunflower Coal, 2002; 3 (H). Milan Hristev, The Temple of Godless Aphaia, 2004; 4 (G). Sven Fennema, Sleeping Halls, 2009; 5 (F). Dennis Mecham, Dancer, 2005; 6 (E). Susan Burnstine, Bridge to Nowhere, 2006; 7 (B). Joe Cornish, Traigh Eais Barra, 2004; 8 (A). Mitch Dobrowner, Shiprock Storm, 2007; 9 (D). Michael Levin, Code, 2009


Jack Nelson said...

"No snapshots or silliness allowed. Despite that limitation..."

Ha! I love that.

Hernan Zenteno said...

the photo number 3 looks like a cousin of Raymond Carver.