Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nadav Kander - Obama's People

A friend of mine recently bought to my attention Nadav Kander's latest work for the New York Times. It's a a portrait portfolio of the new Obama administration, on a par with Richard Avedon's 1976 chronicle of the political elite. It consists of the same kind of simply lit images that focuses all the attention on the subject matter, rather than any lighting or location wizardry.

The New York Times editors letter found here, quotes Roland Barthes as suggesting "that any time a subject steps in front of a camera to have his portrait taken, four people show up: who that individual thinks he is, who he wants others to think he is, who the photographer thinks the subject is and whom the photographer will try to make use of to bring about his art."

I certainly think they're an interesting set of images, far removed from the classic clean over produced images we are used to seeing of important people involved in politics. The images certainly have none of the confidence and glossy production of the Annie Leibowitz images of the the Bush administration for Vanity Fair's 'War and Destiny' issue from February 2002. There is something a lot more real and raw about them - to me they seem to show a variety of characters, many of whom look awkward, possibly even ill at ease, stripped bare by the photos. Kander has managed to make a bunch of men and women in suits come across in a unique and individual way. This was why he was bought in for the job, and as the NYT article goes on to say; "In 10 or 20 or 50 years, Kander’s portraits might not say “diversity” at all to a viewer; informed by events we cannot foresee, the pictures will come to be freighted with as-yet-unknowable meanings and to trigger undivinable emotions, though, being photographs, they undoubtedly will become poignant: all such portraits grow increasingly elegiac, making their way toward their ultimate fate, in a desk drawer or attic pile, as memento mori."
© All images Nadav Kander
You can see the full slideshow here. Also worth checking out the behind the scenes images with voice over, and for a different but amusing take on the behind the scenes images check out the APE take on things here.


faridah said...

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dk said...

Certainly interesting pictures... but I wouldn't call them portraits. He seems to have removed all traces of humanity from his subjects, to me they seem far more akin to an animators early drafts for a possible cartoon. But like an, as yet unmade, cartoon they have character - namely the artist's - but still lack all personality, little to distinguish between them. Gimmick photography 2/10

good blog tho'