p h o t o
two way
family portraits
d e s i g n
frankfurt balkind
publishing: theArtDisk
a b o u t a r t i s t
curriculum vitae
brief description of the conceptual basis of the work
i am continuing my effort to investigate the many unexamined assumptions within the genre of american portraiture in a new series of portraits taken at my local wal-mart portrait studio.  as i am increasingly aware of the viewer's desire to assume that i am art-directing my photographs, i realized that there could be no better way to avoid that claim by employing the antithesis of artifice and stylistic manipulation.
        inasmuch as wal-mart has entered the cultural lexicon of mass-marketization, it is unsettling to realize that there are thousands of portrait studios, identical to the one in my local store, dotting the entire country. we are witnessing the zenith of homogenization for the country's middle class portraiture vernacular.  it is also fascinating that in a country of egoic drives and self-serving appetites, the irony of capturing one's 'identity' vis-à-vis a photographic portrait, is rendered so anonymous and de-personalized by the sheer volume of nearly-identical images.
        the only variations possible within this uniform "frame" are an assortment of generic stools (in varying heights), several "personalizing" props, such as stuffed animals and sports equipment, and the all-important backdrop. all of these in total suggest that these are all the variables necessary to effectively support the identify of absolutely anyone who might enter the studio.
       of course, the most informative cue as to the identity of the subject is the pose and facial expression. And yet there appear to be about as many options here as there are sporting balls.

physical and technical project description
        in an effort to expose the inherently ironic limitations of this convention, i have taken it upon myself to spend time in my local Wal-Mart Portrait Studio and study its patrons. i have befriended the studio photographer and enlisted her help for my project. after successfully convincing her that i was not a nut case, she has become an enthusiastic assistant to my process. upon observing an actual wal-mart customer have his/her/their portrait taken, i then enter the studio and she and i "recreate" the previous portrait with as much precision as possible:  same backdrop, same props, same pose, and same expression. in the case of a group photo, we simply leave the other party's seats empty.
        i am also attempting to depict the passage of time by way of allowing my clean-shaven face to go unshaven from image to image. this is the one cue as to the "identity" of the generic actor/artist.
        i find the results quite compelling. the images as a group are immediately familiar yet unsettling; humorous yet sad. the recurrence of a single generic  'actor' (in this case myself) creates a kind of pathos from the realization that there is actually very little that separates us.