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Big Brother (Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, Hitler, Khomeini) (Burson, Nancy), 1983Ficticious Porträts (Cottingham, Keith), 1992

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of every trace of coincidence, lead just as much to a reevaluation of realism and staging in the age of digital simulation. Both of these positions exemplify an important tendency in contemporary photography.

Body Images, Modules, and Data Supplies

The word subtle only rarely applies to the interventions carried out on portraits and body images in the 1990s. Parallels between electronic image processing and genome decoding led to images in which the body was interpreted as a changeable material, as an instrument for future experiments, and the projection surface for variable notions of identity. Uncertainties about terms such as ‹subject› and ‹body› were as much on display as articulating fundamental critiques of what was possible with genetic engineering. [10] Still clothed in the suggestion of a photographic image, in each case these body images seem to refer to separate individuals and their specific physicality – even though these are not depictions, but rather more like visions. The factuality of photography obviously no longer applies in these drastically altered images, but nevertheless makes an odd and all too clear appearance.


Portraits Without Models

Through electronic processing, the individual portrait becomes the depersonalized image of types, masks, and visions of possible faces. In the early 1980s, Nancy Burson produced composite images made up of photographic portraits she fused together into a single person of a certain type. Her pliable images of the series «Big Brother» are the result of overlaying portraits of different twentieth-century dictators, which create from photographs of separate individuals an image of the dictatorial.

Viewers unaware of how these images are made see what they believe to be conventional though not particularly sharp, photographic portraits with aesthetic qualities similar to those of mug-shots.

The photographic suggestion is far more perfect in the excruciatingly sharp, color simulations, «Fictitious Portraits,» by Keith Cottingham. Constructed from different visual reference materials, these pictures of an adolescent possess a material quality which perfectly coincides with that of conventional

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