Richard Nixon and “The Perfect Image”

December 20, 2008

One of the joys of photography is that sometimes you’ll just more or less unintentionally hit on an image that just works.  I don’t know what this quality is, exactly, but I see it in my friends’ work all the time and I would put it down to a surplus of signifiers that opens up a kind of radical possibility of meaning’s mutability.  (It’s Saturday morning so I’m being radically utopian.) 

Here’s an image I shot last night that, for me, works this way.  Not a perfect image by any means, but all the off kilter details and the flash and the curtains add up to something that makes me really enthusiastic about artmaking.  (Paper doll courtesy of Tom Tierney’s series of US president paper dolls, available from Dover Press.)

nixon1a

As a bonus, here’s a comparison shot of a Nixon image that doesn’t work quite as well for me:

nixon2a

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2 Responses to “Richard Nixon and “The Perfect Image””

  1. AdamFeldmeth Says:

    The simple difference between the two, which begins the divergence, is the visibility of his face.

    In the one you prefer he seems to be caught in the spotlight of an interrogation room. (It’s Saturday morning. My mind makes loose connections.) Essentially, the light appears to be oppressive in that suggestive sort of way. The amount of light also seems to act as a veil on his face so that it obscures to an extent the pen-drawn features. You can find that pen in the hands in the tie more clearly, but you run to the face because its there.

    The one you don’t prefer firstly is full body. Recently it seems you’ve been on a kick with these experiments to do what I’ll call a torso-chop sort of composition with the major foregrounded content center frame, rising up from off camera. This of course lends some allusion to the suggested instead of a flatfooted sort of display of the actual paper doll from head to toe. With the face bleached out on this one attention leads to the fingers and the overall posture. It also suggests a sort of “your-face-here” environment.

  2. Nicholas Says:

    Yeah, the truncation observation is dead on. Part of that has to do with fragmentation happening in my work (pics of severed legs and whatnot) and in my life, as I have fewer lengthy blocks of time to consider art work carefully. Life, etc.

    And I think the depth apparent in the 1st photograph helps as well.


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