A Portrait Exhibition

Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews, Shows & Contests' started by Nicole, Apr 23, 2007.

  1. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    I have a question for those of you, that appreciate exhibitions and shows. This is merely to promote discussion and food for thought.

    A Portrait Exhibition:

    Would you visit an all portrait exibition?

    Humans are drawn to humans in one way or another. Whether it's a nude, an interesting face, childlike, freaky, plain attractive... Searching for and recognising familiarity within ourselves, that goes deeper than just seeing what's on the surface of the paper.

    If you are intrigued by portraiture.... would you buy a portrait of a stranger for your personal collection / walls?

    Does the name of the photographer necessarily have to be a bit interest factor?

    I personally love visiting shows. It's a shame we don't get that many in our city.
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Nicole,

    Visit: almost certainly.

    Buy: probably not. But then, that'd because my wife and I fill our walls with the pictures we take ourselves.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  3. George Losse

    George Losse Member

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    Nicole,

    I've had this conversation with a good friend who shots wonderful portraits. He had shows of his portraits but always had trouble selling them. People might enjoy seeing portraits of regular people but unless you are a big name they don't tend to buy portraits of regular people.

    Portraits of famous people are the exception to the rule. People will buy images of famous people from non famous photographers.

    YMMV but that's what we found.

    George
     
  4. John Bragg

    John Bragg Member

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  5. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

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    Nicole,

    I've wrestled with this issue myself, as some of my strongest work has been portraiture. I've exhibited it a number of times and it's always drawn a lot of commentary, but no one has ever purchased it. I exhibit it only as a means of generating portraiture commissions, frankly.

    I'd definitely visit a portraiture exhibition, and I might buy a portrait that sems to say something about the human condition in general, or which is part of a street scene or otherwise fits a larger story the image tells. But I think "intimate" portraiture may be too personal to reach a larger audience.

    Just my take on it. I hope to be proved wrong at my next exhibition! :smile:
     
  6. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Hi Nicole,

    Sure.

    Not really. Even the environmental portaits of Mona Kuhn for example - well done, but would I really buy one? Nope. I understand the attraction - don't understand the purchasing power. Even if the subject were famous.

    Sure. If it were Yusuf Karsh or George Hurrell, I would go without hesitation.

    As an aside: I have Roger's "Hollywood Portraits" book. Great resource!

    Regards, Art.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2007
  7. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    There is a photo exhibition on in Paddington (Sydney) at the moment called 'Head On'. It is all portraiture, selected by competition. It's packing them in.

    As for purchasing, I've been told that people don't buy photos of people they don't know. Unless it's a photo of a celebrity. Or taken by a famous photographer.
     
  8. blaze-on

    blaze-on Member

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    HI NIc,

    I would visit an exhibit of portraiture, but not travel too much for it.

    I would not a buy a portrait of a stranger no matter how good/strange/intriguing.

    The name would be a factor in getting me to travel farther.

    I would agree it is a good way to solicit portrait work, but sales would likely be non-existent. If you invited many of the clients you've shot, and display images of them they never purchased/saw or perhaps printed them differently they may be enticed.
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I would buy a "portrait" of someone I didn't know, but I'd also buy a nude of someone I don't know. I think it depends on how tightly we define "portrait". If you mean in the clinical, academic sense of portrait as personal, commissioned work to factually depict the subject in a manner pleasing to the subject, then no, I probably wouldn't buy something like that. However, some of the quirkier, more revealing photos that give you an insight into the person, why not? If the image makes me think, and gives me some kind of connection to the subject, then I'd be very interested, and if well executed, there's a decent chance I'd plonk down cash for it.
     
  10. nicolai

    nicolai Member

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    I'd go, and if I liked a piece enough, I'd buy it.
     
  11. catem

    catem Member

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    I did go to an exhibition of her work a few years ago - I would have bought a print if I'd had more money at the time (they sell if I remember rightly for between £200 - £400 which doesn't seem that much to me) - contented myself with the large-size catalogue instead.

    Simply some of the best and most inspiring work I've ever seen.
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I wonder how the August Sander family does financially with the portraits of infamous people?
     
  13. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Oh I forgot, Julia Margeret Cameron, Yousef Karsh, Arnold Newman, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Sebastio Salgodo to just name a few.
    We could go on and on and on and on.

    Of course people are interested in Portraits.
     
  14. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Yes and yes. Though if I was going to buy a portrait of someone it would need to be more than just a portrait - it would have to say something wider about people.

    Two photographs that I've seen recently that do this for me are "Girl in bed with a telephone" by Irving Penn and "Beatles Pillow Fight, Paris" by Harry Benson. I don't think the fact that they're famous influences my view. Whether these count as portraits I'll leave for someone else to decide ;-)
     
  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    People, in photographs, can be very interesting. I like to view them.

    Is a Diane Arbus or William Egglestone photograph featuring an individual a portrait?

    As Ian posted above, the question of whether or not I'd be interested in buying a portrait depends on how you define portrait.

    Matt
     
  16. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Yes, I would love to visit a portrait exhibition; I have done so, and I have exhibited my own portrait work. The best I ever saw was an Eddie Adams exhibition that was here in Puerto Rico a few years ago. All 48x48 or larger, black & white portraits of people who had been imprisoned or persecuted for human rights reasons. Incredible exhibit! Concurrently, there was a Sebastiao Salgado exhibit in another museum! Not exactly portraits like the Adams exhibit, but of people nonetheless. It was interesting to compare the two exhibits.

    Would I buy a portrait of a stranger? Yes.

    Yes, the name of the photographer would definitely be a factor. But that's not to say I would not buy a portrait by a photographer I had never heard of.
     
  17. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes... and yes, sort of! If money were no object, there are plenty of portraits I'd buy, but since it is, I have to make do with making my own :tongue:

    I saw a $9,000 Gertrude Kasebier print at AIPAD last week... like I said, if money were no object!!

    A collection doesn't always have to go up on the wall, btw. Sometimes, looking through a portfolio or book can be more satisfying, than seeing just one great print at a time.
     
  18. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I go to every exhibit I can, so I see a good number of protraits. I'd say that I'd buy some if I could afford them, though the ones I'd think of buying are usually in the $10K+ (err, $30K+) territory so... fat chance!

    In those cases the photographer is what makes the photo (even if of someone famous). Portraits I've seen in galleries and would have liked to buy has I the space and cash, in the past year, have been by Avedon, Katy Grannan, Irving Penn, Alec Soth, etc.

    But the function of such a show can drive markets in different ways. If the portraits were of rockers, they may attract the $ of one particular group. What are the portraits, who do they speak to and why? If the portraits were of notable people in a particular town, perhaps it would attract revenue in a different way. And it's useful for drumming-up business in general (if you can, get the current "Weddings, Events, and Portraits" issue of PDN magazine, which has a section on commission portraiture) -- though not for the gallery owner.

    Ultimately, the questions is WHICH portraits?


    As an example, these Nixon portraits, recently shown by Jeffrey Fraenkel, are arresting in their own right, undeniably great photographs -- though I can only imagine that the buying audience for them is limited to dedicated photo collectors/museums or people in the medical professions.
     
  19. Drew B.

    Drew B. Subscriber

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    I tend to be interested in portraits of those of us who are not famous...and in fact, the last portrait book I bought is The Face of Appalachia which is more an environmental portraiture type book. Some of these people know no other life than what is around the bend from their home...but are happy and you can see it on their wrinkled and bearded faces! Yes, I would go to a portrait exhibition and if I like an image, whoever it may be, I'd purchase it.
     
  20. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    I like to visit exhibitions of portraits, but I'm not really interested in having strangers on my walls. I do however try to stump up for the exhibition catalogue, or associated book, and in this case I actually prefer to own books from less well-known photographers: the big names are everywhere and they are easily found if I want to see it again.

    If you are thinking of a local exhibition of your own photographs, consider using short-run printing to make an affordable catalogue. Not an $80 MOMA retrospective monster, but a reasonably-priced aide memoire to help people remember and revisit your work.
     
  21. naeroscatu

    naeroscatu Subscriber

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    Assuming you are offered to buy for a reasonable affordable price a picture or a painting both portraits by famous artists, which one would you choose and why. It seams to me that people don't have same reservations when comes to painted portaits but may be I'm wrong.
     
  22. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    BTW, I should point out that while the aforementioned Fraenkel Gallery sells some very large and expensive prints (the previous show was Sugimoto prints going for $80K a pop), they also make a bit of coin by selling many books arranged with thei shows. The other galleries here (notably Koch, upstairs from Fraenkel) do the same. Even small galleries can get in on the action.

    In this respect, I have purchased portraits I've seen at exhibitions, and done it right there in the gallery. The $80 Katy Grannan book pales compared to the $9000 prints, but I like it enough to part with the $80. A small Lulu or iPhoto book can recoup your basic costs (and even Stephen Shore uses iPhoto).

    [​IMG]
    Katy Grannan: Brian, b. 1976

    Selling big prints: nice. Selling books after people see the prints (and tell their friends): better than not selling any prints! :D
     
  23. Muggs

    Muggs Member

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    Nicole,

    You know I never really thought about much, but there are definitely portraits that "move me". For instance one that I absolutly fell in love with is Frank Petronio's "Tiana at Scott Hamilton’s studio".
    You can see it here:http://frankpetronio.com/archive/pretty_girls_my_recent_work.html I don't know what it is about this photograph I am drawn to, but it's very powerful to me.
    Maybe it's her smile or the selective focus.
    Anyway, to (finally) answer your question, yes there are some portraits of strangers that I would buy. If, of course, I had any money. :>)
    Actually, since seeing this Photo a while ago now, I've thought about asking Frank how much an 8x10 would be, but I'm sure it's too rich for me.

    Muggs
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi nicole

    i love going to portrait exhibitions, there is something about seeing
    other people that i connect with, more than say a landscape or a still life.

    i have bought portraits of people i didn't know, and have been given some as
    well, but i have never bought portraits from an exhibition i have gone to.
    (does that make sense?) ...

    john
     
  25. MartinB

    MartinB Member

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    Nicole,

    I would (and have) visited portrait exhibits. A few years ago I went to see a Karsh exhibit in Edmonton (Canada) because I had to see those large prints for myself. The name of course was the draw as it provided a pretty good clue about the content of the show.

    Other exhibits featuring portraits by unknown (to me) photographers were not planned based on specific subject matter. I went to see what they were showing. I would neither avoid nor go to a show based on the fact that it featured portraits.

    I don't buy too many photographs but have bought one portrait. I bought Lange's Migrant Mother (interpreted and printed by Mike Johnston Mike's Blog) because I wanted to see what a fine print (compared to poor reproductions) looked like. Although Dorothea Lange is definitely a name, I bought it because the photo itself attracted me because of its emotional appeal. I am not sure I would buy a portrait of a stranger unless it had some kind of similar universal appeal.

    good topic!

    Martin
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2007