Oregon artist portraits

In the Frame 3: Lens on artists

K.B. Dixon continues his photographic portraiture series with images of Oregon arts and cultural leaders

Text and Photographs by K.B. Dixon

Photography essentially began as the art of portraiture. With the daguerreotype the portrait—previously painted and available only to an aristocratic few—became relatively inexpensive and available to everyone. John Szarkowski, the legendary director, curator, and poohbah-emeritus at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, noted in Looking at Photographs (his survey of the museum’s extensive collection) that “of the countless thousands of daguerreotypes that survive, not one in a hundred shows a building or a waterfall or a street scene.” What they show is “an endless parade of ancestors.”

The portraits here are part of an ongoing project titled In the Frame—a parade not of ancestors, but of the talented and dedicated people who have made significant contributions to the art, character, and culture of this city and state.

As with the previous portraits in this series, I have tried to produce a decent photograph—a photograph that acknowledges the medium’s allegiance to reality; that preserves for myself and others a unique and honest sense of the subject; that provides the viewer additional context that enriches, however infinitesimally, the viewer’s experience, understanding, and appreciation of the work these people have done and are doing.

Taken in situ—that is, in the subject’s natural habitat—these are not formal portraits but casual ones, portraits that rely on a mystical synthesis of time, light, form, and feeling. No assistants, studio lights, make-up artists, hair stylists, set designers, costumers, animal handlers, or Photoshop retouchers were involved.

 


 

Kim Stafford

Oregon’s Poet Laureate. Director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College.

Continues…