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Description: You Look Beautiful Like That: The Portrait Photographs of Seydou Keïta and...
Director's Foreword
PublisherHarvard Art Museums
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Director’s Foreword
In photography, the relationship between commercial practice and artistic achievement is an especially interesting, and often vexing, one. The two artists represented here, Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé, did not think of themselves as artists when they were making portraits. As Michelle Lamunière says in her essay for this catalogue, they felt their role was “to please their customers by making them look good.”
And make them look good they did. The intimacy of these portraits is striking, with some sitters self-conscious and others so free of the constraints of convention. When they do “pose” it is with such flagrant presentation of attitude or such charming and sweet innocence that they hardly appear to be posing at all: they seem all there, every bit of them, their bodies, physiognomies, and personalities, all convincingly of their time, place, and individual ambitions.
We are convinced of the truthfulness of these portraits, and are moved by the obvious sense of trust between photographer and sitter. These portraits are of people made comfortable by the photographer. And the photographers’ ability to engender such trust in their sitters is an important part of their artistry, no less than their delight in an almost riotous mix of linear patterns (Keïta, so reminiscent of Matisse) and the hip and sometimes humorous straightforwardness of their posing (Sidibé, like Weegee with a touch of August Sander).
These are sophisticated photographers. And we are very pleased to be presenting their work in this exhibition, drawn from the renowned collection of Jean Pigozzi (Harvard Class of 1974). Mr. Pigozzi’s trust in our professionalism and our teaching and training mission, as well as his help with the internship that allowed Michelle to develop this project from initial idea to final installation and publication, were crucial to the exhibition. We are deeply grateful to him, just as we are to Deborah Martin Kao, the Fogg Art Museum’s Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, and Danielle Hanrahan and Evelyn Rosenthal, heads respectively of the Art Museums’ Exhibitions and Publications departments, who together helped Michelle make this project the handsome and important one that it is. We gratefully acknowledge, too, the support of the Gurel Student Exhibition Fund.
But our greatest thanks must go to Michelle herself. A Ph.D. candidate in art history at Boston University specializing in the history of photography, Michelle has been a model intern and colleague, tackling a complicated project with intelligence and enthusiasm and producing an important work of scholarship into the bargain.
We are very pleased to have organized this exhibition and to be sharing its artists’ and curator’s work with a larger audience through the distribution of this catalogue by Yale University Press.
James Cuno
Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director
Director’s Foreword
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