Ilan Wittenberg – Bare Truth
Gaffa Gallery, 281 Clarence St, 2000 Central Sydney, NSW, Australia
Bare Truth is a captivating collection of portraits of New Zealand men who are humble, courageous and vulnerable. Their photographs expose and reveal who they really are. The edgy portraits are presented in monochrome to emphasize their shape and form. The simple background eliminates distractions so the viewer can focus on their body language and facial expression.
The combination of using a soft, directional light while adapting a special post-processing technique enabled me to enhance their features so the images are raw and crisp. They look directly into my camera so there is always a highlight in their eyes.
Many cultures portray men as strong, physically and emotionally. This stereotype sometimes leads to dire outcomes when considering how poorly typical men treat health symptoms, depression, stress and anxiety. One of the goals of this project is to raise awareness; give men freedom to express their feelings and connect to their emotions. This fresh look at men is an eye-opening opportunity to see the real people without the ‘shield’ of clothes.
We are all flesh and blood and we are here on this planet for a short period of time. This project simply reminds us of how fragile we are. In creating this collection I aim to demonstrate a clear style, to tell a story while being imaginative and thought-provoking. I wish to inspire people with distinct images that are crisp and sharp, to be creative and artistic, to evoke emotions and to show a personal vision.
The idea of creating portraits of men who expose their chest evolved gradually. The biggest challenge was finding the first man to agree to pose. After a few rejections and setbacks, I created a portrait of a close friend and became really engaged with the look in his eyes.
At the beginning I asked only family and friends to participate. After gaining valuable experience and formalising a consistent style, I expanded the portfolio and became confident in approaching total strangers. Having a small folio helped in overcoming objections, until the project gained a critical mass with dozens of portraits. I focused on capturing a variety of ethnic groups, poses, age groups and body sizes.
Once the portfolio increased in size, I became more selective and started approaching men who had a more interesting appearance; those whose face tells a story. While some men are very comfortable with having their portrait created, others feel this is completely outside their comfort zone.
The Bare Truth project gained further momentum after selected prints from this body of work won prestigious awards at the Portrait Classic category of the 2015 Iris Awards form the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography as wall as international awards.
The Bare Truth portfolio was later chosen to be exhibited as part of the Signature Programme of the 2016 Auckland Festival of Photography.