Every year, I give myself a new personal project to work on. In the past, they have been different series of portraits focusing on people that interest me. For my personal work I’ve photographed mixed martial artists of all levels and experience and members of The Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization who welcome home our soldiers, among others.
My most recent personal project is a bit different from anything I have done before. This is because the finished products of the series are completely out of my control. Aptly named The Irrational Portrait Gallery, the portraits focus on 21 Long Island based artists of all styles. The portraits are shot on white seamless, retouched and printed on Epson canvas. The 44″ by 58″ prints are then given to the artists for them to manipulate however they want.
I partnered with FRESH, a Long Island art collective, on this project to decide which artists to invite, as well as the right venue in which to display the exhibit. We eventually decided on a museum space in Southampton, NY that’s large enough to display all of the 21 prints with enough breathing room in between each one.
I saw the project as an experimentation in how people would confront a larger than life photo of themselves that is already considered a finished piece and then take it the next step. Would the artists cover my photograph completely with paint so that their work stood out more? Would anyone leave it alone altogether and only show the portrait? How will an abstract artist work with a photograph to create the final piece? We didn’t know what anyone would do and that’s what made this project so exciting.
The project conceptualized in December 2012, and has been 1.5 years in the making. Along with the portraits themselves, the combination of nailing down a venue and promoting the event took many hours of time and coordination. I think one of the biggest challenges in this project was finding the right venue for the exhibit. We needed ample amount of space between each piece on the walls to let them breathe and allow the viewer to focus on just one piece at a time without distraction. We eventually got a contact at the new Southampton Arts Center, which used to be The Parrish Art Museum, and got a meeting with the new director. There was about a month or two wait before we finally got confirmation that we had the space for our exhibit. That lead us into our next big challenge which was getting promotional materials together (postcards, posters, stickers, promo video, website, etc) and get those promos out with just over a month before the show date. We also got sponsors and music on board for the opening reception. It was pretty crazy timing but we made it happen!
One of the most important details of the printing process was selecting the right medium to print on, allowing the artists to work on their piece however they liked. Rick ran about a dozen test prints on different Epson canvases, hitting them all with a variety of paints and other materials to test the durability. He wanted to be sure that regardless of what was used, the integrity of the photo print would not be compromised.
The show’s opening reception on June 28th was a total success with over 550 attendees. The overall feedback on the exhibit has been outstanding, which can be seen on the Press page on the project’s website at http://www.irrationalportraits.com/press. Along with the great reviews we’ve been receiving, the show is also currently featured on the cover of the July/August 2014 issue of Long Island Pulse magazine and a 3 page article inside.