American Portraits Performance

The concept behind American Portraits Performance derived from the photography series in Pseudo/Mixed Light: The backdrops and poses used to compose a typical American portrait, are similar to the Chinese takeout container—they are “molds” that form standardized shapes.

During the performance, which first took place during the 2015 Pseudo/Mixed Light exhibition at Da-Hsia Gallery, Taipei, I adopted the photographic system of Lifetouch, Inc.—an American portrait photography company where I worked as a photographer briefly in 2012—to represent the American style. A Lifetouch studio is recreated in the gallery space as I instructed participants to pose for an “American portrait”. By doing so, I ask whether an "authentic" American look can be constructed through superficial measures, such as photo backdrops, lighting, and guided poses.

Since its establishment in 1936, Lifetouch has produced numerous portraits of school kids and church members across the US. These images consisting of a blue backdrop and few deliberated poses have become so familiar that they are often used in TV and movie scenes.

Just like the Chinese takeout container, the blue backdrop of Lifetouch photography are considered cultural icons today. I combine the two in one exhibit, so that the audience can imagine the physical expressions of a Chinese dish in a box through the act of posing.

Here are some sample shots from the performance in June, 2015: