. . . of aesthetics

Abba Lessing, photo by elizabeth birnbaumHere is Abba Lessing, philosophy professor at Lake Forest College, my alma mater. I think this is one of my best portraits. I always did my best portraiture work on black and white film probably because of how film required that I be attuned to the composition of the shot differently than anything digital has ever asked of me. Behind Abba is a blackboard where “AVERAGE” was written and erased. Abba was indeed anything but average. This photo is from 2007,  my senior year in college, when my photography class was concurrent to a course with Abba called Philosophy and Aesthetics. I recently revisited my stack of graded papers from the course with Abba, and found some gems.

One paper was called The Aesthetics of the Human Face, and was topped with a self portrait of Albrecht Durer from 1500 juxtaposed with a self portrait of Chuck Close (1967-8).

Paper/Photo by elizabeth birnbaumThe paper raised the question of shifting conventions of beauty, and I wrote that “I am inclined to believe that from our historical vantage point we are able to look back at many artistic movements and manifestations of beauty,” and thus to experience a diverse range of faces as beautiful.

Our face is “our venue of interaction with the world,” I wrote, but I am questioning that today. Isn’t this blog my venue? Or my art? Or the convergences I orchestrate? I think in this internet age there are shifting persona we create, mold, and perhaps we believe we can delete, but that is yet to be seen.


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