Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents Project

Patrick Witty, the international picture editor at Time Magazine, first conceived his presidents project in 2007. He was in the process of naming his son which led him to think about the importance of names.

Witty says, “This was the first conceptual portrait series I had undertaken and struggled to come up with a thread that would link the pictures. Ultimately I decided that the thread would be history—each photograph would make reference to a historic image of the president. Most of the references are made through body language or composition. Some are geographical or purely historical. I scoured the Internet researching photographs of presidents."

"For example, since George Washington was the first president, and the first in my series, I wanted to reference the very first portrait made of him, a painting from 1772 by Charles Willson Peale. The hand over the heart added another dimension to the picture, especially when considering where it was taken."

"Another example is Calvin Coolidge, since he raised alpacas, I searched for a photograph of President Coolidge with animals."

"With baby Barack, it was easy, since there are very few pictures of President Obama as a child.”

Witty shot the project using a Crown Graphic 4×5 camera from the 1950’s that he said helped him gain the sympathy of his subjects, because the equipment seemed so cumbersome to set up. With each subject he recorded an interview that became part of the short multimedia pieces that were featured on the New York Times’ Lens blog.

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