Re-Humanizing the Face in America: The Photographs of Robert Bergman

Prof. Del Rey Loven
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Was the 1998 publication of color photographic portraits by Robert Bergman a landmark in art history? His book, A Kind of Rapture, includes an introduction by Toni Morrison, and an afterword by Meyer Schapiro. These authors conclude that Bergman's work is comparable to that of history's finest painters and photographers (Schapiro), and "will forever mark a place in the history of artistic endeavor" (Morrison). This paper will examine evidences, chiefly internal to the photographs, for such a critical appraisal. The nature of Bergman's portraiture is to defy the use of the face as commodity, and to unhinge received notions of the gaze. Bergman forms an alliance with his subjects whereby they attempt a sublime mediation between the particulars of physical existence and that transcendent inner life which we want to call "the soul". It will be argued that three of Bergman's accomplishments are: 1) elevating color portrait photography to a technical level and thematic stature equal to art history's acknowledged masters, while 2) re-invigorating the photographic book as art, and 3) bringing the reader through an experience that re-humanizes the face by evoking the unique and irreducible Otherness of each depicted person.

Keywords: Photography, Photographic Book, Photographic Portrait, Robert Bergman, The Face, The Other, Transcendence, Otherness, The Gaze
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication, Aesthetics, Design, Religion, Spirituality
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. Del Rey Loven

Professor of Art; Chair, Division of Art, Design and Architecture, Judson College. Elgin (greater Chicago) Illinois

Del Rey Loven's paintings have been exhibited in numerous American venues, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Minnesota Museum of Art, and the Louis Meisel Gallery, New York City. His work as an educator has been driven by the question, "What will be the role of the creative person in twenty-first century society?", and guided by the conviction that "when there is a creative gift, there will be a place of service." This has led him to research and develop academic programs in Art, Visual Communications, and Architecture. The Bauhaus model of integrating academic studies in Art, Architecture, Craft, Design and Industry has been a longtime inspiration.

Ref: H05P0569