Those who go before the camera can reveal far more than their outward appearance, says Chris Jones, curator of Posed, an exhibition of photographic portraits on view at The Ringling.
“Looking at all the different ways we comport ourselves for the camera, and the way photographers pose us, and how others perceive us, gives us insight into their inner beings,” says Jones, associate curator of photography and exhibitions at The Ringling. “All portraiture does that.”
The exhibit presents portrait photographs from the museum’s permanent collection by a wide variety of artists, from the turn of the 20th century to its end. Some of the faces—artist Diego Rivera, writer Truman Capote, musician Louis Armstrong—are well-known. Others, like the woman in a black and white Diane Arbus image posed with her baby monkey, are strangers to us. But in every case, says Jones, “We infer something about the sitter; we are expecting to read them.”
And he adds that when the subject is famous, our preconceptions also play a role in how we react to the photograph. “Photography is ostensibly a democratic medium, but there is still a difference in how we look at celebrities and at ourselves, ordinary people,” he notes.
In addition, the photographer, no matter what his or her approach to the medium, controls the outcome in ways we may not realize. As Jones says, “Even the Polaroids from the Andy Warhol collection when he was just obsessively chronicling his entourage—they have a candidness to them, and an intimate feel, but also you can see how Warhol was presenting them and arranging them and the world around them to project the image he wanted.”
The exhibit will remain on view through Oct. 29.