Mark Russell is a practising photographic artist looking at cultural issues in contemporary society through portraiture.
Statement for the series, Image, Motive, Pose: Artist Seeks Sitters.
Over 2009 I placed classified advertisements online calling for people to pose for a portrait at home. Sitters chose where to sit, how to dress and, in negotiation with me, how to pose. Titled with a quote from their response to my ad each portrait presents the personal performance of the sitters within an enterprise that treads the boundary between private and public.
The series operates within the conventions of the formal portrait but exercises a less straightforward understanding of the sitting. These works ask the viewer to reflect upon the sitter?s motivation to answer the advertisement and welcome a stranger into their home for the purpose of making a portrait for the gallery. Might the photographs raise questions about personal motives and point towards the wider issue of representation in a world where one's personal image is seen as valuable currency?
The series is motivated by three key ideas. Firstly, it provides a document of the encounter between the artist and the sitter, showing within the narrative of each image the fragment of a short relationship at the time of the sitting: what Joanna Lowry termed the 'communicative act' between the artist and the sitter. The series also points to a wider social situation in which questions are raised about the sitters? motivations and eagerness to be photographed.
At the centre of these two ideas lies a third. These works articulate what I might term the gesture of the pose: the visible, identifiable centre, in between the private and public, articulated through the pose itself at the time the portrait is made. These works are, at once, the a record of the private exchange between portrayer and portrayed and an exposition of the prevailing social context, both of which are combined – and revealed – through the gesture of the pose.
Motivated by a desire to see how branding and marketing connects with people the project At Home is a series of twenty portraits shot inside peoples' homes. Each portrait allows for a casual look into the sitter's lives and how their personal environment contains them. In My Bags & Me I posed passing shoppers with their bags in London. Presented as a set of diptych images, which often form a subtle mirror image, these portraits gather a brief insight into everyday consumer behaviour. Both these projects were shot, slowly, with a wooden large-format camera.
Mark lives and works in London.