If you were tasked with choosing an appropriate juror for a portrait show, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better match for the subject than Sandro Miller. Curators Denise Orlin and Federica Ghidelli brought in the master to jury their show, “Face to Face.” With 242 entries hailing from countries as far-flung as Taiwan, Sweden and Chile, Miller chose just fifty-four for the show. The range is vast, from straight black-and-white to bright Technicolor images, but the eye of the juror comes through in all of his choices. Miller was clearly drawn to those submissions with a sense of the unusual. Known for his quirky portraits—think of the “Malkovich Sessions” where the actor and photographer collaboratively portray a seemingly endless cast of characters, captured in the styles of photographers who influenced Miller over the course of his career.
There are a handful of images by Ximena Hinzpeter from a series titled “Death Does Not Call.” At first glance, they are almost terrifying, but upon further reflection, these faces of elderly women become interesting if not beautiful. Every crease, every age spot is vividly captured in close-up. In extreme contrast are a color image of a small girl virtually wrapped in her own curls with a glint of mischief in her eyes, by Ellen Frisbie, and a black-and-white portrait of three sand-covered boys laughing, by Jelisa Peterson, that earned an honorable mention.
Kevannah Berry’s stunning entry, “Swimming Pool,” features a closeup of a child draped on the side of a bathtub, eyes hauntingly gazing at the viewer. In another honorable mention, “Thad in Autumn,” by Dujuan Smith, a handsome young man leans against a doorway, his beautifully lit face serious. Two skateboarders pose with their boards in “Just Hanging Out,” by Barb Pashup, their tattoos and the art on their skateboards merging in a colorful tableau.
Jane Thorsen’s portrait titled “Santeria Priestess” is perhaps the most fascinating image of the group. She gestures with five-inch curved nails painted in a myriad of colors, cigar in mouth, dozens of necklaces around her neck, head wrapped in scarves topped with silk flowers. She brings to mind some of the work in Miller’s own “Cuba” series, so I can see why he was captivated by the image. There is a lovely classic image of an accordionist and his cat in Montmartre by Evelina Snell, and an image of a man with a dark suitcase hoisted onto his shoulder in “Leaving” by Kambua Chema. He appears demoralized and defeated—his valise fades into the background, creating the impression of him literally disappearing.
Miller chose work by George Godfrey for the Juror’s Prize. Rendered in black-and-white, filled with distortion and motion blur, the triptych “Fragments of Figures,” is expressive and emotive. Filled with dread and sorrow, it feels cinematic. It’s easy to see why Miller was drawn to it, as well as the other fascinating faces in this exhibition.
“Face to Face,” WithInSight Gallery, 4001 North Ravenswood, on view through August 30.