Friday, February 01, 2008

Martin Schoeller at Hasted Hunt

I went to see Martin Schoeller's pictures at the Hasted Hunt today. Martin Schoeller is famous for his extreme close-ups of face shots done with his signature style that leaves a subject with little wiggle room to artificiality. Schoeller's images strike one for their remarkable intensity, frankness and truth. He was commissioned by The New Yorker magazine to visit the Amazonian tribe called the Pirahã (pronounced pee-da-HAN) along the banks of the Maici river in Brazil. I have just one thing to say: Their faces are beautifully pagan.

From the New Yorker (more here)

"There are about three hundred and fifty Pirahã spread out in small villages along the Maici and Marmelos Rivers. The village that I visited with Everett was typical: seven huts made by propping palm-frond roofs on top of four sticks. The huts had dirt floors and no walls or furniture, except for a raised platform of thin branches to sleep on. These fragile dwellings, in which a family of three or four might live, lined a path that wound through low brush and grass near the riverbank. The people keep few possessions in their huts—pots and pans, a machete, a knife—and make no tools other than scraping implements (used for making arrowheads), loosely woven palm-leaf bags, and wood bows and arrows. Their only ornaments are simple necklaces made from seeds, teeth, feathers, beads, and soda-can pull-tabs, which they often get from traders who barter with the Pirahã for Brazil nuts, wood, and sorva (a rubbery sap used to make chewing gum), and which the tribe members wear to ward off evil spirits.
According to the best guess of archeologists, the Pirahã arrived in the Amazon between ten thousand and forty thousand years ago, after bands of Homo sapiens from Eurasia migrated to the Americas over the Bering Strait. The Pirahã were once part of a larger Indian group called the Mura, but had split from the main tribe by the time the Brazilians first encountered the Mura, in 1714. The Mura went on to learn Portuguese and to adopt Brazilian ways, and their language is believed to be extinct. The Pirahã, however, retreated deep into the jungle. "

The part I enjoyed most about these works was the fact Martin has shown the same level of attention and detail in photographing these tribes from the Amazon as his photographs of Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger and George Clooney (some of whom are in the same show). When you have the Amazonian tribes, Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench in the same room, you slowly start to see the effects of mascara and eyeliner begin to wear away and you start to see all of them as naked human beings, plain and simple...

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