This is the final section of the exhibition and QR code number eight. This is a large open space with seating areas grouped around the perimeter. Here you can sit, have conversations, and consider the connections between culture and photography.
Surrounding this space is a faded mural with snapshots of people reading magazines. The mural is interspersed with four clear plexiglass shadow boxes holding copies of Harper’s Bazaar magazines that feature photographs of or taken by Richard Avedon. Labels in this space explore Richard Avedon’s role as inspiration for the 1957 film Funny Face, starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, and print culture—including the importance of magazines after World War II and before television became the dominant mode of information. Another label lists our sources for the graphics used in this exhibition.
You’ll also find here three stations with conversation starters titled “What is a portrait?”—tables immediately in front of you, to your left, and behind you across the open space of the seating area—that invite you to think about photographic portraiture.
The first conversation starter features portraits of Katharine Hepburn and asks you to think about why an artist might choose one photo over another. Click here for a description.
The second conversation starter compares two portraits—one of the author Flannery O’Connor and the other of her room and workspace—and asks you to consider what objects can tell us about a person. Click here for a description.
The third conversation starter presents an image of a photographer in their working environment. This station asks you to think about how a specific environment can affect the meaning of a portrait. Click here for a description.
The conclusion of the exhibition offers one last prompt that explores different approaches a photographer can take when creating a portrait. They can reveal things their subject didn’t realize they were expressing, focus the viewer’s attention by removing unnecessary details, or emphasize important details to tell a story.
This is the final QR. Thank you for visiting and we hope you enjoyed the exhibition (re)Framing Conversations: Photographs by Richard Avedon 1946-1965.
Conversation Starter 1
What is a portrait?: Katherine Hepburn
In front of you is a round table with two chairs. Printed on the tabletop are reproductions of two photographs by Richard Avedon. In one image, two pieces of lined notebook paper have twelve small photographs of a woman glued on. The other image is a larger portrait of the same woman. The following text appears on the tabletop in English and Spanish:
What is a portrait?
Katharine Hepburn was an actor. Her strong-willed, independent, and spirited on-screen presence matched her off-screen personality.
Avedon worked to show the distinctive character of his sitters.
Compare the many proof prints to the final selection.
Pick the one you think is best. How does your selection compare to the one Avedon selected?
Avedon cut photographs from his contact sheet to decide which to print. It is unusual that these are glued to notebook paper. One side of the table holds an image of two sheets of notebook paper, torn and stained, with a series of 2 ¼ inch black-and-white photographs of the actress Katherine Hepburn. There are eight photos on the left sheet and a blank space with two orange dots of dried glue where a ninth photo was either removed or fell off. The right page holds four photos, and a large chunk is torn out of the center of the paper. Each of the photos has a small handwritten number next to it, and many have a small X as well.
Hepburn is a white middle-aged woman with thick, medium-dark hair and smooth, pale skin. She has large, light-colored eyes with long eyelashes and sharp, high cheekbones. She is pictured from her bare shoulders up in all the photos, but her posture and expressions are different in each. Sometimes her hair is up and sometimes it is down and a bit wild. In most photographs, her shoulders are squared to the camera and her eyes meet the lens, but her face is turned. She is smiling in several photos, frowning lightly in one or two, and talking in some. In others, her expression is perfectly neutral.
On the other side of the table is the portrait that Avedon chose. It’s almost identical to the first photo on the right notebook page. This is not a photograph, but rather a photomechanical print so the details are not as sharp as those in the small photographs. This image is cropped so that Hepburn fills the space. Her face is centered, almost in profile, and her hair is pulled back in a loose bun. Her eyes are opened wide, and her brows raised, making lines across her forehead. Her mouth is open, and she appears to be talking. Avedon selected this photograph because it revealed her personality, not just how she looked.
Conversation Starter 2
What is a portrait?: Flannery O’Connor
Immediately in front of you, is a round table with two chairs. Reproductions of two photographs are printed on the tabletop. One was taken by Joseph Reshower in 1961 and depicts a woman; the other was taken by Susana Raab in 2006 and depicts that same woman’s room. The following text appears on the tabletop in English and Spanish:
What is a portrait?
Does a person have to be in the photograph?
Flannery O’Connor was known for her short stories in which religion informed explorations of ethics and morality.
What do the objects in this photo tell us about Flannery O’Connor? How can photographs help us understand people?
One of the images on the tabletop is a black-and-white photograph of the writer Flannery O’Connor. Her head, hands, shoulders, and the back of her chair fill the square photograph. She is a white woman wearing glasses and a black sweater. Her head is in the upper left quadrant, and her hands with intertwined fingers are in the lower right. She looks out of the frame to her right and smiles. O’Connor’s left incisor catches slightly on her lip-sticked bottom lip. Her pale hands are highlighted against the dark sweater.
On the opposite side of the table, the second portrait is a more contemporary color photo of Flannery O’Connor’s room. The square photograph is softly focused around the perimeter and sharper in the center of the image. The edge of a bed cuts across the foreground of the photograph. In the middle, two aluminum crutches lean against a dark cabinet. Just to the left is a desk with a typewriter on it. A wooden chair sits in front of the desk with a slightly obscured orange and black shopping bag in it. There are large windows behind and to the left of the desk, glowing white with sunlight, and a second wooden chair with a large pillow standing against the back.
The second conversation starter is to your left at the other end of the wall.
Conversation Starter 3
What is a portrait?: Vernon Photo Studio
In front of you is a round table with two chairs. A reproduction of the photograph Vernon Photo Studio, Harlem Window taken by Lucien Aigner in 1935, is printed on each side of the tabletop. The following text appears on the tabletop in English and Spanish:
What is a portrait?
In this photograph, we see a man in a photography studio window and imagine he is the photographer. We can also see studio portraits that show examples of their work.
How are the studio portraits different from Aigner’s portrait of the photographer?
Occupational and environmental portraits include the tools someone uses for the job or that are made in their place of work.
In this photo, a light-skinned Black man leans into a store widow from inside the studio. He is wearing a light jacket and has a pipe in his mouth. A partition at the back of the window creates a wall surface on which black-and-white portraits of various sizes hang. There is a display surface at the bottom of the window with two tiers lined with more photos. Almost all the portraits were made in a studio setting and are framed; most feature a single person posing and smiling for the camera, although there are a few images of small groups. The man in the window has a white cloth in his hand and he is polishing one of the larger portraits at the very front of the display. At the top of the window, large letters on the glass read: Vernon Photo Studio.
The third conversation starter is behind you, across the open space of the seating area.