Untitled Gentleman is a series of fictional portraits created using anonymous faces from contemporary barbershop hairstyle posters combined with figures from discarded studio photographs. Through interventions in these found photographs, this work explores representations and constructions of identity in portraiture and appropriates value to images and individuals who are otherwise overlooked.
Existing between the real and artificial, these images are made effective by creating an expressive ambiguity in an unexpected context. In subverting the meaning and expectations of the traditional studio portrait, the images create an unknown narrative and visual tension that play with the viewer’s perception of the work.
The ambiguous expressions captured in these barbershop portraits inherit a vulnerable quality when placed inside the familiar frame of the studio portrait. In this new context, these once primarily functional photographs become unusually candid and passive representations of masculinity. Paired with figures from historical and contemporary found photographs, these men adopt new identities and are recognized as individuals, while remaining anonymous; identified by the hairstyle number originally found on the barbershop posters.
I am interested in shifting the frame of how we encounter and interpret images to investigate the meaning and construction of the photographic image. This work aims to encourage the viewer to reflect upon their own interpretation and projection of identity in the photograph.
Erica Allen was born in 1980 and raised in Oakland, California. She received her BA in Fine Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2003 and completed her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, Photography, Video and Related Media program in 2008. Past awards include the Aaron Siskind Scholarship and William Hyde and Susan Benteen Irwin Scholarship. She has exhibited in NYC at Broadway Gallery and Visual Arts Gallery. Erica currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. www.ericaallenphotography.com