Chuck Close – A Couple of Ways of Doing Something

Posted on January 30, 2013


I have just come across some work done by Chuck Close and modern day daguerrotype expert Jerry Spagnoli. They teamed up  to photograph many artist-friends  with Gregory Crewdson, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman amongst them. The resulting daguerrotype portraits are fascinating.


The daguerrotype portraits are recorded on polished metal sheets and are quite small at 8×6 inches. Most of Close’s images are head shots with subjects’ faces looming out of a black background. The depth of field is very limited so only a small part of the face is in focus which adds to the three dimensional effect. Whilst the original images are small it seems that for the Aperture exhibition some very large prints were made. To visit the Aperture exhibition website click on the image below:


In an interview with Jim Casper  published on the website lensculture, Close describes the process as ‘…more warts-and-all than any other process. Because it’s so red-sensitive, any marks, any flaws are heightened. You have to be pretty comfortable in your skin, and vanity goes out the window’. 

This sentiment also applies to my 45 seconds… work. The process I have been using with close up frontal head shots in plain lighting has been described by one of my subjects as ‘merciless’.

Close goes on to thank his subjects and commented that ‘Each one of these people who lent me their image with no control over how it’s going to come out, in this act of incredible generosity, had to put away whatever self-image they had of how they looked and accept this other image as being them. That goes beyond generosity.’ I must say that I feel that the subjects for the 45 seconds… have been similarly generous by allowing me to capture them ‘warts and all’.

The idea expressed by Close that the subjects having to ‘accept this other image as being them’  is very insightful. The reason why many people don’t like having their photograph taken is because they don’t want to accept that the image they see is truly them. People are more comfortable sticking with their imaginary selves. This is something which I must keep in mind as I develop my skills as a portrait photographer.

I have just ordered the Close’s book.


Close C. (2006) Chuck Close: A COUPLE OF WAYS OF DOING THINGS New York: Aperture