Chuck Close, Kate, 2012. Courtesy of Two Palms.

Chuck Close: Daguerreotypes and Woodburytypes

“Vanity goes out the window,” said Chuck Close of daguerreotypes and Woodburytypes, the obsolete 19th-century photography methods that Close uses to render his subjects in raw, sometimes unflattering detail. In the late 1990s, Close began experimenting with these traditional, red-sensitive photography methods, whose white-hot flash can highlight imperfections like sunspots, frown lines, or blemishes. “The flashes are so intense your eyes slam shut. It’s like having an ice pick shoved in your eyeball,” Close once explained. Despite the discomfiting process (during which Close can smell the hair of his subjects burning after the extraordinary flash), he’s managed to convince a notable tribe to pose for him, including politicians and celebrities like President Barack Obama, Brad Pitt, and Kate Moss, and several artist–friends like James Turrell, Kiki Smith, and Cecily Brown. The resulting images are intimate, real, and captivating—the result of Close’s 21st-century approach to an antiquated technology.

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