“I really like the capacity of pictures to tell stories and raise questions about people, about the way we live, about the conditions in which we live our lives. And so I think for me, portraiture is about all those things. It’s about an opportunity to ask about a person or a society or even myself.”
— Claire Beckett ‘00
Portraiture, although typically seen as static and posed, has an extraordinary ability to tell stories through the relationship between photographer and subject, subject and background. This Gund Associate (intern)-curated exhibition highlights recent gifts and promised gifts to the Gund Gallery Collection, focusing specifically on photographic portraiture by Claire Beckett ‘00, Helen Levitt, Vivian Maier, Rania Matar, and others. Through intimacy and empathy, these women photographers are able to raise questions about the constructed nature of identity, especially in the lives of the women and children they portray. These photographs reveal the close, yet complex relationship between photographer and subject and reflect the influence of both individuals on the final work. This mirroring additionally allows viewers to see themselves within the work. Often portraying the trajectory of childhood and adolescence, these images capture the liminal stages of life and expose moments of self-creation by the artists and their subjects. The importance of these moments of transition lies in the freedom to decide one’s own identity. Each of the artists represented use different visual and conceptual strategies, drawing from documentary traditions, fashion photography, and narrative film, to closely observe and empathetically portray their subjects’ experiences and day-to-day lives.