Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Self Portraits and Related Photographs

Seven Self Portraits and Related Pictures
The first photograph is from 1964, one of those school portraits everyone has taken, this one being my first.  The second and third photos are from 1966, when the Coventry fire department burned down the old abandoned house behind ours (with the owner’s permission) for practice.  I always warn my students about composing photos like the one directly below with the figures dead center and great expanses of landscape behind; but it is such a good likeness of my father and me together that it transcends my older brother's limited skills as a photographer at the time.  There will be a few more photographs of my father here and for the very good reason that we looked very much alike, allowing for our age difference of course.  


Though Stephen Kaplin actually shot the next picture of me (standing over a powerful lamp pointed directly upward along the edge of the Kennedy Center in DC right after we performed there in the Eisenhower Theater in 1980,) the concept and set up of the composition was very much mine and I take full responsibility for its perceptive qualities, whether good or ill.  The baby with the artfully placed vase of flowers was my dad posing in front of what was then his Grandparent Wells' house in Chaffeeville, Mansfield Center, Connecticut in 1927.  It was my Grandmother Wittig's house when I was growing up, and then it was my parents' place.  The figure standing in the window, wearing my face (cast in latex) and the suit I purchased to wear for my older brother’s funeral, was a construction I quickly assembled to photograph for a beginner’s photography class I was taking at the time, in 1983. 

The autumn leaf man is an old family photo that belonged to my grandmother, which I date to my father’s childhood, sometime around 1934 or so; and I trust that he made the figure and took the photograph because I remember being told that he did.  He used a Kodak Brownie.  The following four portraits were shot in an automated photo booth in Dover, England, just before I jumped on the ferry that would take me to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, in October 1984, and convey my relief at departing the UK before my four day visa expired.

The boy with the chicken is again my father as a child in Fairfield, or possibly visiting his grandparents in Mansfield.   The young man on stage next to the very beautiful Ecuadorean dancer, Talia Falconi (in male drag,) is me, playing the Beast in an adaptation of La Belle et la Bête by Charles Perrault.  The backdrops were my work as well.  It was shot in 1986 in Orleans, Vermont.  Next there's another picture of my dad that I swear shows him looking exactly as I did when I was the age he is there.  Finally there's a photograph that Michael Dennison took of me when Mike was taking a photography class during his senior year of High School, which he took here in San Francisco, back in 1991.  Not only did Michael shoot it but he developed and printed it as well.  The whole series he shot of me were pretty remarkable, but this is the only good print that I have from it.  I can only hope that he still has all the negatives.

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