Posed at The Ringling



From centuries of painted portraits reserved for the wealthy elite, to modern day selfies, commonly associated with millennials and social media, a desire for people to reinvent themselves with poses and props proves everlasting. Ringling Museum’s newest photography exhibit, Posed; Portrait Photography from the Permanent Collection, curated by Chris Jones, Ringling’s associate curator of photography and new media, showcases different types of photographed portraiture and reflects on how the viewer responds to these images. Says Jones, “This exhibit is a reflection on the nature and function of portrait photography.”

The power of photography lies in an ability to capture and immortalize a moment. Jones wanted to instigate a dialogue amongst viewers regarding how photographed subjects choose to present themselves with this medium. “We are pretty much looking at work from the beginning of the 20th century through the end of the 20th century,” says Jones. “We want to show as many different approaches to portraiture and the language of it. We always select with an eye to find the most compelling pictures that will generate conversation.” The exhibit displays an eclectic range of photographers, including work by renowned artists Dorothea Lange, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman. Making their debut at the Ringling, newly acquired works by Mike Disfarmer, an eccentric known for capturing intimate moments with his subjects, and August Sanders, who challenged fascists beliefs by documenting life in the Weimar Republic, join noteworthy subjects Louis Armstrong, Truman Capote and Diego Rivera lining the exhibit’s walls.

Posed highlights the evolving and constant nature of portraiture. “The medium borrows off early traditions and tropes, such as poses and props,” says Jones. “We sort of use portraits as a short hand, expressing an individual.” The exhibit intentionally brings forth different types of poses and props such as money, wings and apparel, showing how these elements create varied personas and evoke different emotions from the viewer. Furthering this dialogue and making the audience think about the power of photography Jones asks, “What sort of identity are we trying to create? How truthful is it when we look at someone’s exterior? How well do we know who they truly are?” 

Pictured: "Lupe, Mexico" by Edward Weston, 1924. Image courtesy of Ringling Museum.

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