On display November 1 – December 31, 2017
Opening reception on November 3 (6-9pm) during First Fridays in Grand Center
Theo Welling: Portraits
Portraiture is among the oldest and most popular uses of photography. Even in images that mostly feature other subjects, like landscapes, it has long been recognized that viewers visually locate the people in them first before taking in the broader view. The advent of social media has further expanded our obsession with human depiction, with some sites even acknowledging this curious psychological tendency in their names (i.e. Facebook). So why, with so many images of people coming into our connected consumption, does portraiture still matter? Why are these images still so affecting? Why make a portrait of a stranger when it is likely that they have already produced dozens, if not hundreds, of their own?
It is something to do with the interaction (conscious or subconscious) between the sitter and the photographer that makes these images, the really good ones, stand out. The best portrait photographers realize this exchange, and recognize that photographing a person’s likeness is a very intimate gesture, for a picture exposes a subject to the realm of possibilities. When a viewer sees a portrait, they are invited into a person’s life while their defenses are down, so it is the primary responsibility of these photographers to capture what is vulnerable, what is evocative, and what is true. Theo Welling is one of these photographers.
Welling is the photographer behind “The Lede”, a weekly short-form interview centered around a portrait of a St. Louisan, which kicks off each issue of The Riverfront Times. To complete this assignment, Theo casts a wide net, often driving around the city for hours looking for that subject with a story to tell; the person that stands out even among other people. It is remarkable how successful Mr. Welling is at this task, and at uncovering the fundamental quirks that make up the people he points his lens toward. The photographs pulled for this exhibition are among his best. Each image reveals the essence of the sitter. Each image communicates an entire existence in a single shot.
– Jason Gray, Curator