Monday, June 6, 2011

Chuck Close: Not So Typical Daguerreotypes


Sometimes, the old methods work best for certain occasions. This is what the legendary portrait artist Chuck Close proved when he created these beautiful photographic portraits using the more than 150 year old process of the daguerreotype.


Chuck Close (whose self-portrait you can find above) is better known for his photo-realistic portrait paintings that usually measure over twice the height of a man. He later created abstract like portraits by using wood blocks or by individually painting cells arranged in a grid which later on become the foundation for a larger work of art. Viewed at a distance, these portraits don't look any different from your usual paintings, but viewed up close, you can see the individual cells (or pixels if you will) that make up the picture.

Mr. Close later teamed up with Jerry Spagnoli, a modern day expert of the daguerreotype process. Together, they began a photographic project creating portraits of artist-friends.


All of the wonderful photographs you see here were made by Mr. Close using a daguerreotype camera. The daguerreotype, named after its chief developer Louis J.M. Daguerre, is one of the oldest methods of photography. In fact, its formal unveiling in 1839 (which also coincided with the other photographic process called calotype) marked the year photography was invented.

The beauty of a daguerreotype image comes at a price as the process of creating just one photograph involves painstaking preparation and oftentimes several minutes of exposure. The process also required various chemicals that can be hazardous to the photographer and environment if not properly handled.


In order to create a daguerreotype, one must first polish the silver coated plate (which is the direct positive of the image to be exposed) to a flawless mirror finish. It is then sensitized with iodine and bromine vapors. After exposing the plate i.e. taking the photograph for several seconds or minutes (depending on the light levels and chemicals used), the plate is then developed using mercury fumes.

The image is then fixed with one of different solutions available including potassium cyanide, sodium thiosulfate, ammonium thiosulfate and even sodium chloride (table salt, which was the first method of fixing). The plate is then gilded, which adds a layer of gold to strengthen and improve the durability of the photograph. You can find out more about the whole process here and here.


Because the usual exposure for this old art form takes around a couple of minutes, Mr. Close used six flash strobes to make the exposure almost instantaneous. According to him, "Your eyes slam shut so fast, it feels like somebody stuck an ice pick into the middle of your eye. If we don't have the shields, you can smell your hair and your face burning."


The majority of the portraits you see here are that of Mr. Close's artist friends. They include (starting from above) social commentary artist Lorna Simpson, minimalist composer Philip Glass, photographer Andres Serrano (of Piss Christ fame), photographer Cindy Sherman (who is her own model for her conceptual images), portrait photographer Lyle Ashton Harris and below, mixed media artist Ellen Gallagher and artist and sculptor Kiki Smith.

Mr. Close photographed around 20 of his friends which were included in his recent publication Chuck Close: A Couple of Ways of Doing Something.


All of the preparation put into these images is quite apparent, although some praise (or criticism) should be given to the daguerreotype itself; the plates are so sensitive that both the subject's best features and imperfections are heightened.

In Mr. Close's hands, these facial flaws take a step back as the subject's character comes out. These faces emerge from the darkness, with the very narrow depth-of-field focused on the eyes. As a whole, these floating heads look like they were meticulously hewn from solid rock, polished metal or hard wood. Both the age and agelessness of the photographic process become part of the portrait.



Aside from his artist friends, Mr. Close also photographed other subjects, most notable among them being the celebrity Brad Pitt. The photographs were done for W Magazine, with Mr. Pitt specifically asking for Mr. Close to do the pictures. He isn't the "fair-haired young boy" anymore, but the portrait still works quite well.


Mr. Close also did a few full body portraits, most famous among them being the exquisite studies of another celebrity, supermodel Kate Moss. All of these photographs were later made into brilliant massive tapestries with the help of Donald Farnsworth of Magnolia Editions.


Overall, all of these portraits are excellent and Mr. Close is to be commended. These images are truly a testament not only to his talent, but also to his perseverance on focusing mostly on portraits considering that he has face blindness, something you wouldn't have guessed when you look at the quality of his work.

Most of these excellent daguerreotype photographs by Chuck Close are available in the beautifully made book Chuck Close: A Couple of Ways of Doing Something, a book that is truly a work of art in itself. You can also get to know more about Mr. Close through Chuck Close: Life and Chuck Close: Work. The documentary Chuck Close is also a good place to start.





45 comments:

Dejch said...

those are nice portraits

The Angry Lurker said...

Amazing pictures especially of Mr.Pitt, every nook and cranny literally.

thenitefalls said...

I'm liking the last portraits it's very natural :D

Blk Jesus said...

nice portraits

jamiesaur said...

pretty cool technique.

Laughing Vault said...

great portraits, and hot girl :)

Fang said...

Nudity just as my dad walked in, thanks...

But especially the pictures taken front-face seem to have a lot of depth to them, because the farther-away parts of the face are already very out of focus.

Triper said...

Very nice article, good reading.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Love the detail and clarity and also the unnatural depth of field. I've also always preferred black and white portraits.

ed said...

very artistic and brings out the details

Banacek said...

I wonder if Kate Moss was drunk in those pictures too.

Colin Biano said...

eerie

Shutterbug said...

I like that Brad Pitt one! And btw, you gave me a great idea. I should feature bloggers for my "shirtless sundays." So let me know if you want to send me some pics. ;)

Dave said...

Amazing pics these. They show so much detail.

D4 said...

Such an interesting method with such an amazing result. I love the character, it just hits me straight on.

DocStout said...

I'd heard of the daguerreotype before, but learned a lot more about it today, and the photographs are really unique. Good post.

Biff Tanner said...

NICE!

HiFi said...

Wow, makes you think of how long it took for people to figure out the chemical combinations for making photographs. Awesome pictures.

Malkavian said...

Cool pics, indeed brad isnt a young man anymore, RRRRRRR on Kate moss

randomer said...

Beautiful portraits, I really like the technique used.

Sean said...

haha I thought that one looked like Brad Pitt

Astronomy Pirate said...

Never heard of daguerreotype before, it looks amazing though. All the work involved certainly appears to be worthwhile.

Rob said...

Those things are amazing :D

T. Roger Thomas said...

Artsy

Ryan said...

SIQ POST BRO!!!!!

Guy Movie Blogger said...

Amazing how much detail is visible on the face shots. Really nice gritty feeling to the pictures.

Reilly said...

wow! That's amazing!

Electric Addict said...

face blindness... i have never heard of that before :O very skilled

Rorschach Redemption said...

"Your eyes slam shut so fast, it feels like somebody stuck an ice pick into the middle of your eye. If we don't have the shields, you can smell your hair and your face burning."
Jesus.
Prosopagnosia? Does not wiki!

duffboi said...

These photos have a very unique looks to them. Sounds like a lot of work went into them too. Good stuff.

MRanthrope said...

love the rugged flaws these photos bring out. Appreciate Kate's Moss also. haaaahaaaaaaaaaa

Jacob said...

amazing shots of normal people!
Simple yet beauitiful

-E- said...

it seems to be making the images artificially sharp.

ironchefman said...

Nice pic of Phillip Glass and Brad Pitt outside their normal elements. Sometimes the old methods still produce some of the best results.

Jay said...

@Rorschach Redemption: thanks for the feedback, i've fixed the links. :)

ppatssca said...

Whoa, I really like the way these look. Followed!

Leo Stahl said...

They are both strange and amazing to look at.

Major.Mack said...

that looks like ben kingsley in ghandi

Jaccstev said...

Impressive photos with some haunting looks.

Daniel said...

amazing people!

Intraman said...

can't believe people still use daguerreotypes... the final result looks great though, really 19th century looking

Anonymous said...

The fleshlight Vibro comes with 3.
Today, I'd like to advertise a professional joint venture by my husband and I'm his husband.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was very unique. The Super Skin of my Puma Swede fleshlight is the best kind
of scenario in my opinion. To improve animal performance we
want to hear a punk band in 2012 that is obviously questionable,
one must have a more intense experience to achieve the
same euphoric feelings as before. The guys get their dicks out
and getting used to. Today, the average length of
time it can be!

jake craft said...

is that Philip glass?

jake craft said...

is that Philip glass?

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...