About Face at Pier 24

[dropcaps]W[/dropcaps]e are living in an immediate world of Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram, where phones are cameras in the hands of masses. So as we, the viewer, slow down and look at the images, we have to ask… What, honestly, is a portrait?

Pier 24’s About Face is a must see for photography lovers.

It’s open by appointment only. But don’t let that discourage you. Their online scheduling is very easy, and they limit the number of people in the gallery to 20. How great is that? No looking over peoples’ shoulders to see an image.

And it’s free!

Self-portraits by Photographer Lee Friedlander at Pier 24 in San Francisco.

Self-portraits by Photographer Lee Friedlander at Pier 24 in San Francisco.

With its nearly 1000 images (about 80% from the permanent collection of the Pilara Foundation), the exhibit shows a wide range of portraiture from mid 1800s mug shots to Zwelethu Mthethwa’s working class South Africans. In between are works by well-known photographers including:

Photo by Gillian Wearing

• August Sanders
• Richard Avedon
• Dorothea Lange
• Nicholas Nixon
• Diane Arbus
• Nan Goldin
• Walker Evans

And some lesser known photographers including:
• Hans-Peter Feldmann
• Adou
• Hiroshi Sugimoto

The exhibit is curated to engage the viewer in the discussion between photographer, subject and viewer. The first room artistically balances works of lesser know photographers with the famous.

Neil Selkirk’s Certain Women, Trina W., next to Walker Evan’s Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife. Richard Avedon’s Andy Warhol (scars from 1969) next to Rineke Dijkstra’s Asylum Center.

The sequencing asks the viewer to look, and look again at what the portraits offer. What do you see in these works? What are they saying?

As you move further through the gallery, walls and rooms are devoted to a single photographer -Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Lee Friedlander to name a few. With larger bodies of work, we continue the discussion, the questioning of the meaning of portraiture…

• Are they self-reflections, as Lee Friedman’s self portraits and Adou’s portraits?

• Are they like Gillian Wearing’s self portraits, asking who we present our selves as, who we want to be?

• Are they a look into others’ souls, like the work of Diane Arbus, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Harry Callahan?

• Are they social commentary like Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, August Sanders and Nan Goldin?

It’s an exciting, thought provoking and masterfully curated exhibit! Don’t miss it.

About Face
Pier 24
Through Feb 28, 2013


This post is written by Barbara Bowman