Portraits and Biography
The photographic image is the object itself, the object freed from the conditions of time and space that govern it. No matter how fuzzy, distorted, or discolored, no matter how lacking in documentary value the image may be, it shares, by virtue of the very process of its becoming, the being of the model of which it is the representation; it is the model.
Hence the charm of family albums. Those grey or sepia shadows, phantomlike and almost undecipherable, are no longer traditional family portraits but rather the disturbing presence of lives halted at a set moment in their duration, freed from their destiny; not, however, by the prestige of art but by the power of an impassive mechanical process: for photography does not create eternity, as art does, it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption.
André Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image", What Is Cinema? Vol. 1
I'm fascinated with the portraits of writers, which I feel, is often an extension of the authorial persona. In many ways, the photograph contradicts the frozen stylistic manuevers of the written word: Here is a woman or man standing, sitting, before a bookshelf, smoking or in avid concentration over coffee cup tables. There's a guarded psychological openness to the image. An intentional oxymoron if there ever was one.
Which brings me to the art of looking intellectual.. among all the arts, writers have an uncanny ability to make themselves look as if they were quietly engorged with Sphynx like wisdom. Artists, musicians, dancers, actors don't quite have that kind of air.
Beckett in his youth.
Beckett with conspicously half opened manuscript.
Cigar boy with anarchic Dionysian hair.
Love that pensive gaze.
Quiet in the corner.
The glasses really accentuate the look. Intense.
Dean-ish turnaround glance.
Age and shadows. He looks carved out of wood.
My favorite picture of Beckett. You can see the daylight coming in through the windows on the left. One gets the feeling that there is a whole day ahead of him. This is a picture that perfectly exemplifies Bazin's ontological vision of photography: ripped out from the destiny of the everyday while lovingly coccooned in a ever-accessible present.