For over a hundred years, photographic portraits have been used to identify citizen. We see them on our ID papers, they are kept in government registers. All the photographs are more or less the same: a bright background, an expressionless face, a narrow frame. Just enough to recognize the person. Of course, for the owner of an ID or membership card, it is ‘I’ – someone specific and very special. Does each particular photograph gain or lose individuality when compared to other photos taken in a similar manner?
Maintaining identical conditions: background, lighting, framing, etc. when shooting photos of a large number of people makes it possible to identify a given group – the community becomes more visible. However, when viewed in typological terms, the most important role of a portrait is to easily bring out the differences between the subjects photographed.
At the exhibition, we present projects created in the last ten or fifteen years. Most of them have never been published or exhibited before. This is but a selection, a small fragment demonstrating that the typological method of photography is still very popular, being ideal for portraits. Recognition directly refers to the nature of the typological portrait, created to identify the person in the photograph.
For the projects collected at the exhibition, political themes are quite important. The artists scrutinise the issue of belonging to various social groups, such as: citizens of the Republic of Poland (Bartosz Nowicki), female soldiers (Michał Korta), urban residents (Tomasz Albin), and politicians (Marcin Kaliński). However, they also look for common / differentiating elements in the portraits of contest winners (Rafał Milach) and owners of dolls (Ilona Szwarc). The selection also includes projects in which the initial identification of a given group of people is even less clear-cut and is imposed from the outside: these are projects by georgia Krawiec (a remake of August Sander’s work) and the POPeCulture – a photograph with the Saint by Maciek Nabrdalik. There is also an attempt at self-description. Karol Radziszewski, doing his best to maintain identical conditions (distance, neutral background) and equal time intervals, examines changes in his own image.
The exhibition raises a number of questions concerning identification. Do the identical conditions in which a series of images is taken reveal or conceal the distinguishing features? To what extent can similar clothing (or almost identical, if one considers military uniform) and identical image background (in the offices of politicians) bring out the individual character of models? The projects we have selected for the exhibition are shown in fragments. Typological series work perfectly in art performance or for the specific goal of portraying a large number of people. However, it would be quite impossible to present entire series at an exhibition.