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October 30, 2019 - November 17, 2019

Benjamin McMahon: Not Myself

Less Kardashian, more Kahlo

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“This is my set of self–portraits, none of myself.”

So says Benjamin McMahon, a portrait photographer who is regularly sent to spend time with artists, actors, musicians and politicians with the mission of capturing their essence in a single shot.

“Sometimes I have only five or ten minutes to meet and photograph a person,” McMahon explains. “I started to wonder if it was possible to make an honest picture of a person in such a short time. Was it possible for me to make a picture of them that was different. Were they just giving me the same photo face or pose they would give to the next photographer?

“I began asking people to make their own pictures at the end of our shoot. A self-portrait. This way, I thought, they would be in charge. They would choose how to be represented and how they are seen. I wondered if I gave control over to them if I would get something else, something better, something more honest.

“We would find a spot together and set up the camera, I would focus the manual camera and help frame, and then it was up to them how they looked. Did they feel like smiling? Did they want to be serious? No one else was there to direct them but themselves. I always asked them to be more considered with it: less selfie, more self-portrait; less Kardashian, more Kahlo.”