If you are a Londoner and you haven’t been to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Taylor Wessing Photography Exhibit, you are missing a great show. If you go to http://www.npg.org.uk and click on Taylor Wessing, you will see some of the portraits on display.
Not that the winning photos are my favorites. In my opinion, the winning portraits fall short of winning. Not that there aren’t any number of winning portraits, but my choices are never those chosen by the judges. I wish that I knew why my choices are always at odds with the choices of the critics. I wish I were a fly-on-the-wall, listening to the curators discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the art that they are judging. What is it that they see? Do they see what I see?
I was drawn to any number of “losers,” but one photograph in particular, a photo of Julian Assange (AY sanj), took me beyond a surface impression. You know him… the WikiLeaks guy. What an interesting man. (And I apologize for the poor photo of the photo – the glass and the lights were working against me.) Are we to love him or hate him? Those who love him, applaud his activism. He has exposed scandals, climate research, and government documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. He promotes open government and freedom of information. His work has been recognized by Amnesty International and the Civil Liberties Union.
To some, Assange is a hero. To others, Assange is the devil incarnate.
Who is this unpatriotic guy whose mission is to expose private emails and classified government documents in the name of transparency? Is nothing sacred? And what about the sexual misconduct charges against him in Sweden? We’ll throw that in too.
Clearly, Assange is an unknown quantity. What I like most about Kate Peter‘s photo is that her work underscores the ambivalence we feel about the man.
In the photo, Assange wears a white dress shirt, open at the collar. The collar is a bit frayed. (A frayed collar, a frayed man?) His black suit fades into the black background. (Now you see him, now you don’t?) His pale face and white boyish haircut set him apart from other men his age. (An outsider?) His left eye looks directly at the viewer; his right eye looks off to the right. (Looking, but not looking… indirect… an unknown entity?)
Aside from artistic considerations of composition and lighting, the photo of Assange perfectly captures the masked man who is an enigma. We know him not. It also underscores our ambivalence. Really… this photo should have finished in the top five! See for yourself. The exhibit closes 12 February.
If you go to http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/julian-assange, you can read Michael Hastings‘ January 18th interview with Assange.
What is your response to the Michael Hastings interview? Did Hastings come to the interview with an open mind or pre-conceived notions? Did you learn anything new? Did you change your opinion of the man behind WikiLeaks?
Find an art photo or advertisement copy that speaks to you. Write about the text and the sub-text. What qualities attracted your attention?