Face to Face: Portraits of Artists 

edited by:
Helen Molesworth 
published by: MACK
text by: Matteo Cremonesi

Face to Face is an extraordinary collection of portraits, bearing witness to the work of three of the most interesting and significant female authors of our time: Tacita Dean, Brigitte Lacombe and Catherine Opie. This work, which cannot be described as a simple collection of images, concretises the authors’ attempt to organise a sensitive look and questioning around gender. A crossing between the fragile nuances that constitute the identity of an individual and the sensitivity that accompanies and determines the photographic work of the authors.

Although it is possible to recognise in the artistic baggage of these three authors the weight of the art-historical legacy, a tradition in which their work is placed and realised, each of them manages to elaborate an independent and meaningful gaze, producing a sign and a photographic behaviour that stands out.

While Tacita Dean embraces prolonged exposure times, entrusting this suspension on the subject with the possibility of formulating an expression characterised by a radical use of the camera, Brigitte Lacombe’s work, on the other hand, drags her cameras on true exploratory missions, capturing the essence of each subject in an immediate and visceral way; Catherine Opie, finally, fits into the tradition of the studio portrait, manipulating light and space with unparalleled mastery, a work in which the relationship with the photographic tradition of portraiture is evident through the observation of every detail and attention brought by the author.

What emerges clearly and powerfully when flipping through the pages of this book is the overlapping of the subjects portrayed: Face to Face offers us the unique opportunity to take a close look at portraits that are not just works of art, but genuine windows into the soul of the subjects. The images pulsate with vitality, revealing the depths of the subjects, thinkers and authors who have left an indelible mark in the fields of music, painting, photography, film and literature. Among the figures that come to life through the lens of the three artists, we find internationally renowned names such as Hilton Als, Maya Angelou, Richard Avedon, Joan Didion, David Hockney, Joan Jonas, Fran Lebowitz, Patti Smith, Kara Walker and a host of other extraordinary talents who have made American artistic and cultural expression great.

This extraordinary book is not only a work of rare beauty and intensity, but also a testimony, a record in which the relationship of mutual dependence and assistance between visual art and storytelling is collected and tangibly recounted.

Published in conjunction with the extraordinary exhibition at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, the work includes illuminating essays by the exhibition’s curator, Helen Molesworth, and the multifaceted artist and writer Jarrett Earnest. These contributions further amplify the dialogue around the images, offering keys to interpretation and perspectives that can make the viewer’s experience deeper and more meaningful.

Face to Face is not just an ode to the art of portraiture, but a profound meditation on the human and the expression of individuality through the lens of three extraordinary artists. Each page, each image, each stolen fragment and expression is an open window into inner worlds, an invitation to explore the many facets of the human soul through the acute and sensitive gaze of these masters of the photographic art.

Copyright © Tacita Dean, Brigitte Lacombe, Catherine Opie, Helen Molesworth, MACK,  PHROOM, all rights reserved

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