Close Up: Identity and the Photographic Portrait


The Tate Modern has brought together a sample of works from two intriguing photographers to examine two different methods in capturing identity in photographic portraits.

Lisette Model very much took the voyeur approach. She worked quickly and anonymously, taking photos of people in street settings or in communal social areas, such as beaches or parks. She didn’t know the people she was taking photographs of, and often did not ask for their permission either.

What I think of that, ah, it’s a little tricky. That doesn’t make me comfortable yet her photos are wonderful. Would awareness have changed the photos? Is it better that Lisette did capture these portraits anonymously? She captured such characters, such informality in her photos that you are completely drawn in.

Lisette Model 2

The selection of Lisette’s works on show include some of her best known images form the 1930s and 1940s, close-ups of people on the streets of Paris, New York and the French Riviera.

Paz Errazuriz operated at the other end of the spectrum. She invested in strong relationships with her subjects, built up over time, and often explored groups on the margins of society, including the work that the Tate has put on show.

Adam's Apple 1983, printed 2008 Paz Errazuriz born 1944 Presented by Juan Yarur Torres 2011

This display includes Paz’s work from her Adam’s Apple portfolio on the transvestite community in Santiago in the early 1980s. These photos were taken at the height of Pinochet’s rule but were not published in Chile until 1990.

And even then, these photos were not well-received – the transvestite community remains marginalised – and the book they were published in sold just one copy.

But the photos are beautiful, showing the men both fragile and strong, anxious but determined to live true to themselves.

Adam's Apple 1983, printed 2008 Paz Errazuriz born 1944 Presented by Juan Yarur Torres 2011

Tate Modern, London

Lisette Model (1906–1983) was born in Vienna. She lived and worked in Paris and New York.

Paz Errázuriz was born in 1944 in Santiago, Chile, where she lives and works.

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