George Krause, the Philly-born photographer who started the photography program at the University of Houston, has taken up residence in Wimberley, but the picturesque Central Texas town hasn't kept the 74-year-old away from the lens. His work is currently exhibited in The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Locally, his work is on display at Photographs Do Not Bend, which Krause will be visiting later this month to photograph more subjects for his recent collection of sfumato portraits.
His Sfumato Portrait Series turns traditional portrait photography on its head. In the series, subjects are immersed in background lighting, which catches texture, lines and intricate details of the human form that standard lighting techniques fail to do. In traditional portraits, reviewer Peter Ireland said, "the principal features will be, literally, highlighted, with the secondary features in degrees of shadow, and so, the light source must generally be at a 45-degree angle to the full face."
But as Ireland also pointed out, in the Sfumato portraits, Krause has "the light source coming in at the back of the head, producing the strange effect whereby it is the principal features that are in shadow and the secondary features highlighted." He accomplishes this by placing the subject in a mirrored box, and the reflecting light results in something of a halo effect.
The light is at such focused intensity that in a majority of the portraits -- as is Renaissance works featuring the original and corresponding sfumato painting technique -- boundaries and edges are blurred. "The outer limits of the heads have disappeared, so that the unframed features float disturbingly in a suggestive and destabilized space," Ireland said. The result is that Krause, instead of playing portraitist, plays, "geographer and geologist."
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I've actually been photographed by Krause before at his Wimberley studio. I'm looking forward to sitting for him again while he's here in Dallas -- this time for a head and shoulders portrait as opposed to the nude, full-body portrait he took last time. I'm thinking the hair and make-up will be much easier this time around.
You can be the subject of one of Krause's Sfumato portraits as he'll be snapping on Saturday, May 21, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Photographs Do Not Bend. Appointments are required for portraits taken from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then from 5 to 8 p.m., Krause will shoot random portraits during the opening reception for Blender, which runs through August 6. Blender features works by Esteban Pastorino Díaz, Thomas Ruff, Chema Madoz, Nic Nicosia, Neil Slavin, and Robyn Stacey. Eyes of Texas, featuring Krause along with Peter Brown, Keith Carter and Earlie Hudnall, continues in the main gallery through July 2.