Tallinn Photomonth '17 01.09–29.10.2017

Tell Me. Contemporary Portraits in Photography


Narva Art Gallery

Sigrid Viir. Hans_55 (Marquee). Pigment print on aluminium, maple frame, 27 × 22 cm, concrete and metal construction 135 cm, sugar, series of 12 photographs, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Temnikova & Kasela Gallery

The exhibition Tell Me. Contemporary Portraits in Photography is co-produced by Tallinn Photomonth and Tallinn Art Hall and focuses on the main genre of photography, portraiture: more specifically on how photography creates and foregrounds the idiosyncrasies of human psychology, aesthetics and identity.


The detailed documentation of personal idiosyncrasies has been the main objective of photography from the start, and a well-conceptualised shot may be of great social impact, be able to create or maintain both power and romantic relations, and help to remember and recollect people from the whole social range. There’s no point in comparing portrait photography to mirrors, because usually we can outsmart the mirror: by changing the expression, gaze or angle, and by dimming down our character. A good photograph should show us something we are unaware of, and a good portrait photograph should surprise, even astound the subject – one of the charms of this genre is the gradual disappearance of the public image when the personal and hidden is revealed.


Tell Me presents works where the photographer is not a mere technician but someone who uses photography to analyse the human subject in depth. What happens to the model between changing poses for the camera? Who is the family, group of friends or guests standing across the room? What is it that they dream of and what is their life like? Are we able to learn more about each other with the help of this photograph?


The exhibition at Narva Art Gallery is a mental continuation of Where You End, I Begin, an exhibition of photographic space at Tartu Art House (2013), and From Explosion to Expanse – Estonian Contemporary Photography 1991–2015, an outline of the history of photographic art in Estonia at Tartu Art Museum (2015), both curated by Anneli Porri for Photomonth.