Gudrun w-portrait #2(small)I began making portraits in the late 1970’s, while in grad school at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History. From the beginning I was interested in using the subject matter as raw material for an image that seemed to exist in multiple levels or layers. My portraits from the late 70’s/early 80’s used long shutter speeds and I combined ambient light with a hand triggered flash to make the subject appear to be half in this world and half in another.

I encountered the photographic work of the English painter, David Hockney, in the 1980’s and started experimenting with multiple images fragments to create an image that possessed a larger, more humanly perceptable sense of time and space. According to Hockney,”Photographs have no time!” If you were to combine Hockney’s approach with an strong urge to get really a really close look at my subjects, then you might have something like you see here. My quote “I can’t seem to get close enough”.

These portraits that you see here are the result of many very close-up fragments of my subject’s face, body and occasionally, props. (They are not a single image/cut up/and reassembled!)  I tape my focus ring down so that it won’t move and then I move the camera in and out until I find focus. The camera moves from shot to shot, parallel to the subject with little to no intentional tilting (Hockney does a lot of camera tilting). So each fragment is from a slightly different point of view. This makes it imposssible to achieve a single perspective within the portrait. Backround elements, instead of shrinking and converging in the distance, repeat themselves and make a pattern rather than a spacial illusion.

_MG_2069Multiple points in space are combined with multiple points in time. For instance, I will collect 6-9 images of the left eye and just as many of the right eye. Each was taken at a different moment in time and may have been part of a slightly different facial expression. When a pair of eyes are combined they represent a certain passage of time. Even though each was made at 1/125 sec, a period of several seconds or, perhaps, several minutes passed by in between them. Granted, that’s not enough time for aging to have occured, but it’s a long enough moment to think a thought; not so with a 1/125th of a second.

The actual shooting time is between 1/2 & 3/4 of an hour, but that doesn’t include finding the location, props and lighting along with a cup of coffee, glass of wine and a chat. So 3 or 4 hours usually covers the whole experience. Somewhere between 3 and 7 rolls of 35mm B&W film are used. The film gets developed, proof sheets are made and then the proof sheets get cut up and a preliminary sketch gets constructed from those little pictures. This results in an image that would fit on an 8×10 piece of paper (more of less). I use this preliminary sketch to guide my printing in the darkroom, where the typical size of an individual piece is about 3×5 inches. This degree of enlargement yields a roughly life-size portrait.

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