STARTUP 2 - Page 87

Portraits

The tradition of portraiture, and the genre’s ability both to reveal and obscure a person’s identity, has been a subject of ongoing interest for Learoyd. He finds most of his models through friends or acquaintances and usually photographs them only once. He frequently dresses his sitters in clothes found in secondhand stores and uses simple props such as chairs, plinths, or mattresses to steady them before an exposure. These spare environments eliminate distractions and encourage intense scrutiny of the subject’s physical and psychological state. “Historically, portraits have memorialized sitters, and offered a glimpse into their psyche. Learoyd utilizes these conventions in staging his models, but he also knowingly exposes the limitations of this tradition,” says Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “The level of detail in his prints do not reveal more information about a sitter’s personality, but instead create an aura of intrigue about their identity.” Learoyd’s models rarely confront the camera’s lens directly, and each is positioned so that attention is focused on select details such as the residue of makeup that has not been completely removed, or grime that has accumulated on the skin.

Richard Learoyd, Vanessa, 2013, Silver dye-bleach print

Image: 121 × 121 cm (47 5/8 × 47 5/8 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser