What makes a good photographic portrait? The quality of the print? the lighting? photographic technique? or is it the subject themselves? We have here formal photographic portraits of well known persons. Each image uses the formal tropes of fine art photography. High quality prints, beautiful lighting, etc. The photographer captures the sitter in a simple pose allowing the 'essence' of the person, their aura to be displayed to the viewer. However, if we study the pictures closely, there is a portrait of Rembrandt who died 200 hundred years before the invention of photography. What are we actually seeing?
The photographer who created these enigmatic images is Hiroshi Sugimoto. Sugimoto who is famous for his seascapes and images of empty cinemas has been allowed to enter the great Wax museums to photograph the famous (or infamous) people of the world. The artist has not photographed flesh and blood. These are glorified still lifes. Any projection of reality is coming from the viewer alone. The wax sculptor can take some of the credit, but not all. These famous faces did not pose for the sculptor. The sculptor created their masterpiece from hundreds of photographic references and then created their own interpretation of the figure. What we see as reality is a construct from our own personal experiences, our own psychological baggage.
What interests me about Sugimoto's work is that it is not much different than my own. I photograph 1/6th scale action figures. I pose them, light them, photograph them, make quality prints. The impression of any reality that comes from my work can be partly attributed to the sculptors of the action figures. However, it is the viewer interpretation of my work that adds any perceived realism as they are just a still life. It may be how I pose the figures, or what figures I use that triggers a 'hook' within the viewer. My use of a mixture of popular culture references and art history, may spark a memory allowing the viewer to engage with the image more readily.
My art practice does play on the notion of memory. Is a memory real? What is constructed and contrived compared with reality? Who's reality are we talking about? What part does delusion, desire and fantasy play in all this? Many questions to be answered.