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In his "Contact Portraits", Manfred Willmann composes head portraits of famous colleagues one generation older than himself such as Duane Michals, Les Krims and Ralph Gibson by putting together images from a 35 mm film contact print. Beneath each of these “contact portraits,” one of the partial photos, always an excerpt from the face, is mounted in its original contact-print size. This form reveals Willmann’s dual interest: what may seem like one of the countless repetitions of conceptual art—the reference to the material and technical apparatus of photography and the material which it produces (viewfinder, film, film format, darkroom, photo, post-processing, etc.), the concrete game with sign operations of the semiotics-obsessed 1960s and 70s—is recontextualized and, as it were, subjectivized via its being enlarged. The individual images from the contact prints— a nose, a mouth, an eye, hair—lose their purely abstract nature and become miniature physiognomic character studies. Sometimes there is in fact no detail, but rather a situational portrait which is mounted beneath the contact print in its contact-print size; the word “contact” in the portraits’ title here refers not only to the contact print (in other words, the print which is created by backlighting a film strip in its original size as it is placed upon photographic paper), but also the contact of young photographers with the first generation of New Photography masters.

  • Artist: Manfred Willmann
  • Original Title: Kontaktportrait Ralph Gibson
  • English Title: Contact Portrait Ralph Gibson
  • Year: 1976
  • Material: b&w photograph
  • Dimensions: Original Size: 60 x 50 cm (23 5/8 x 19 11/16 in.)
  • Inventory no.: K241
  • Category: photography
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