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Pictures from a Drawer: Prison and the Art of Portraiture Paperback – March 6, 2009
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"I'm intrigued by the portraits of these prisoners. These pictures all speak to me of another time not only because of the way the people are dressed, but also because of the direct simplicity and innocence of the images. Today, when so many photographs are altered and manipulated, the honesty and reality of these images make them stand out as powerful and true portraiture for all time."
—Mary Ellen Mark
A remarkable collection of prison “portraiture” photos
Top Customer Reviews
Over the years, I've developed a method of working with strangers, and what's most important, in the one to five minutes my subjects will give me on the street, is that I get them to be natural and passive, and specifically not present a posed face. This is the only way to get a transcendant portrait that can stand for broader humanity and become timeless. The great portrait painter David Hockney said, "The best portraits suggest a longer period of time." That's accurate. If the portrait is a reaction to the moment, it won't tell a larger story of life or allow us to see ourselves in it.
Pictures From A Drawer are portraits of prisoners, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s. They are photos for the prison's files. The prisoners are passive, resigned to their current fate, and they have nothing but time. They have little reason to pose because they have not commissioned the sittings. Yes, they may still make this face or that face, and we see these efforts in the faces of a few, but for the most part they have yielded to the photographer. The photographer controls which faces are recorded because he or she chooses when to trip the shutter. In my own work, I am well aware that I choose this moment, while also guiding my sitters into what I want to see, or more accurately -- feel. This is key: Great portraiture is not a collaboration between photographer and sitter, but an interpretation by the photographer. It's about what the photographer wants to say about life.Read more ›
If you also practice drawing portraits; this is truly a beautiful book.