When looking through St. Lawrence University’s photography collection, I noticed that much of the portraiture felt like something else: not portraits per se, but still lives; representations of ideas, not individuals; discussions of form rather than narrative. The objects people carried or interacted with while being photographed often communicated more about the individual than any traditional likeness, which prompted me to find images that navigate between the realms of portraiture and still life.
As a result, the works selected span the many spaces between animate and inanimate, and in many images these worlds collide. When does portraiture render as an object? And, when does an inanimate object transform into life?
The exhibition Subject-Object pulls from five queries: subject as a composition, subject’s significance through objects, figures characterized as objects, objects representing human narratives, and objects without humanization.
Photographs in the collection by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Harold Edgerton, Bill Gaskins, Ralph Gibson, Philippe Halsman, Arthur Rothstein, Cindy Sherman, Paul Strand, and others are paired with contemporary works by national and international photographers.
Pairing newer photographs with works from the collection allows viewers to see the interactions and interruptions between these images. I have intentionally chosen contemporary photographers who address more diverse and inclusive perspectives to explore how their work relates to the history of photography. What visual idioms have been developed through the history of portrait photography? How has this history influenced new image-makers?
Contemporary photographers include Alanna Airitam, Elizabeth Bick, Dannielle Bowman, Samantha Box, Nakeya Brown, Aimee Douglas, Melanie Flood, James Henkel, Leonor Jurado, Priya Kambli, Tommy Kha, Clifford Prince King, Natalie Krick, Nico Krijno, Việt Lê, Marcus Maddox, Brittany Marcoux, Santy Mito, Birthe Piontek, Lissa Rivera, June T. Sanders, Cinthya Santos-Briones, Heather Evans Smith, Sheida Soleimani, Leonard Suryajaya, Aaron Turner, Carlo Van de Roer, Kiliii Yuyan, and Zhidong Zhang.
Photographs by St. Lawrence University students and alumni, Meiting Li ’20, Titania McFarlane ’23, Cassandra Pryce ’22, Elizabeth Novicki ’22, and Wyeth Olmsted ’19 are also featured in the exhibition.
– Sarah Knobel, Curator, Associate Professor of Art and Art History