Self-Inflicted Biography

Photo of Lloyd Erlick

Photographer? Horrible mouthful.
Artist? Pretentious overworked word.
Portraitist? Ostentatious.
OK. Lloyd is a black and white photographic portrait artist! Glad we got that settled.

My only real interest has always been people. In school I pretended to study engineering, then mathematics. In typical form for old Lloyd, graduation day was dropout day, and the degree was in psychology. Little did I know how handy that would be, once I could stop thinking in the associated jargon.

So having chosen the low-paying road of portraiture of humans, what did our hero learn?

Portraiture and self-image are intimately bound. All humans struggle with self-image, usually unknown to themselves. Not only their appearances but reactions to their portraits display aspects of their self-images. This has a meaning and deep power for the portraitist:

People can be manipulated via self-image. Surprise! The whole advertising industry is based on this fact, and Lloyd discovers it in the latter half of the twentieth century.

For the portraitist, manipulation of people via self-image can mean income, public approval, commercial success, even being liked by others. As Edward Weston put it, a portrait photographer may be the best liar he is capable of being. And like Weston, I believe in "the thing itself," or more tongue-twistingly, "the person her or himself."

Weston, you may have gathered, is a particular of mine. As a mere sprout I poked along doing my 'own' thing, [sorry, sixties lingo] which turned into what I am now. Unfortunately lacking in knowledge of the outside world, which is to say the collection of people who have done in the past what I am doing now, I discovered late in life that I am following a tradition. Weston, mah ahdeal, opened a portrait studio early in his career and had a sign "Unretouched Portraits." A worthy tradition.

The line running through Edward Curtis, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, Athur Fellig, Diane Arbus, Man Ray, Lee Miller, Margaret Bourke White, Berenice Abbot, and others, seems clear.

I try to collaborate with my subject to produce an accurate portrait. My goal is to come out with a piece of art that gives the viewer the strong feeling of being in the presence of the real person. A success gives the well-known shock of recognition.

A successful portrait amazes me with the feeling that a sheet of paper is holding the reality of a person.

Copyright Lloyd Erlick. All rights reserved.