Where to Go and What to See

American Photo's editor, David Schonauer, and I both sat for mug shots (see above) -- but my interest in the show is not solely personal. First off, I'm fascinated by portrait photography and was excited to be part of a portrait shoot. But I quickly realized that in many ways this mug shot project creates anti-portraits. Picayo gives his subjects no direction, changes nothing about their appearance, and does absolutely no post-production manipulation. As the show's press release states,

There are lots of good shows going up this week (Bruce Davidson at Jackson Fine Art, Saul Leiter at Howard Greenberg, Jerry Schatzberg at the Rizzoli Bookstore...). But it was a no-brainer to decide which I was most interested in, since my photo is part of the show (what? we editors are allowed to be self-interested occasionally).

Jose Picayo found out about the demise of Polaroid a little ahead of the curve and immediately began buying up every box of 8x10 Polaroid film left on the market. Then, with about 900 exposures compiled, he began making mug shots of New Yorkers. The brown-toned, split images will be displayed unframed and "edge-to-edge" at the Robin Rice Gallery starting May 7.

American Photo's editor, David Schonauer, and I both sat for mug shots (see above) -- but my interest in the show is not solely personal. First off, I'm fascinated by portrait photography and was excited to be part of a portrait shoot. But I quickly realized that in many ways this mug shot project creates anti-portraits. Picayo gives his subjects no direction, changes nothing about their appearance, and does absolutely no post-production manipulation. As the show's press release states, "Picayo seeks to revive the concept of pure and unadulterated beauty, spontaneously captured."

I also love the idea of capturing a moment in time -- both the end of Polaroid film as it has been known and the few months in the history of New York City during which the images were made. Aside from the 8x10 mug shots, Picayo also made smaller Polaroids of each subject and pasted them in books where the sitter was asked to record their thoughts, especially about their ethnic and cultural background and what brought them to New York. I love the idea of recording a slice of New York through the faces of its inhabitants; and the use of a disappearing medium to do that underscores the constant mutability of those faces, and the city, and thus the ultimate impossibility of recording either.

~Miki Johnson

(Photo: © Jose Picayo)

Follow the link below for details about these and many more photography events around the country.

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