David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art — Photography, Portraits


• For several months, Albert E. Kahn photographed Soviet ballerina Galina Ulanova, but he is aware that his photographs record only a small part of her career — a career that has not been much recorded in photographs. He asked a Soviet photographer why more photographs were not taken of her, and the Soviet replied, “You know how it is when you are very close to something beautiful, so close that you can reach out and touch it with your hand? You sometimes tend to take that beauty for granted, as if it will always be there.”

• MAD occasionally uses photographs in its satires. Originally, the photographers — creators for MAD — used professional models, but the models were unable to pose satirically. This led the MAD creators to grimace and make funny faces to illustrate what they wanted the models to do. Eventually, someone figured out that they could get better photographs and save money by using MAD people, including MAD publisher William M. Gaines, in the photographs instead of professional models.

• At the 1998 American Choreography Awards show, Rose Eichenbaum went up to choreographer Daniel Ezralow and told him, “I am a talented photographer and would very much like to photograph you. Do you think that would be possible?” He told her, “I’m sure you are, and I’ll be happy to work with you.” He also gave her his private telephone number. The photo shoot went well, and they became friends. He later told her that he had to take her seriously because of how bold she had been.

• Christina Lessa is a renowned photographer of gymnasts. As such, she must be very persuasive and very creative. For example, her 1997 book, Gymnastics Balancing Acts, includes photographs of a barefoot Shannon Miller standing on top of a horse during a cold winter day, Dominique Dawes balancing near the edge of the top of a Times Square skyscraper, and Trent Dimas jumping near a steep incline by the Statue of Liberty.

• Ron Protas is renowned for his photographs of famous dancers and choreographers, including a silhouette photograph of Martha Graham in her old age sitting on a stool. He was always unfailingly polite. Whenever he was asked to leave a performance because he was taking photographs, he would chuckle, then leave by a door — and re-enter by another door so he could take more photographs.

• Portrait painting has at least one advantage over portrait photography. Queen Victoria once asked court painter Alfred Chalfont, whether photography would replace painting. The Frenchman replied, “Ah, non, Madame! Photographie can’t flattère.

• Berenice Abbot wanted to go to the Bowery to take a few photographs, but a supervisor tried to stop her from going by telling her that nice girls did not go to the Bowery. She replied that she was a photographer — not a nice girl.


• Wandering artists in the American frontier days used to make money by painting portraits with no faces. The portraits might be of one person, a married couple, or even an entire family, and the people in the portraits wore fancy, expensive clothing. The artist then traveled around, showing settlers the portraits. If a settler liked one, the artist would then paint in the face of the settler, or of the settler and his wife, or even the settler’s entire family, depending on which portrait the settler bought. Thus, many settlers owned portraits showing them wearing clothing they had never worn.

• Paul Cézanne was an Impressionist perfectionist. He made Ambroise Vollard sit 115 times while creating his portrait. When the portrait was finished, Mr. Cézanne declared that its only satisfactory part was the front of Mr. Vollard’s shirt.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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3 thoughts on “David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art — Photography, Portraits”

  1. I am all too aware of the lesson of Galina Ulanova. When one of my closest friends passed away I could only find one photograph of the two of us together (the days before we all had cameras on our phones) It broke my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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