David Wolf Photographs

Portraits Without People to include Untitled (Tabula Rasa) at Axis Gallery


“Can photography convey who we are without including the human form?” Juror Roula Seikaly answers this question with a selection of two dozen photographs for “Portraits Without People” at Axis Gallery, including works by Preston Gannaway, Dave Jordano and JP Terlizzi.

For this show, I’ve re-titled my piece Untitled (Lincoln, Back) from The After Life of Things to speak directly to the organizing principle of the exhibit. The image itself is a photograph of the back of a cherished portrait of President Lincoln, passed on to me by my grandmother and photographed against a remnant of textured wallpaper.

From the exhibition statement:

“The title of this piece, Untitled (Tabula Rasa), refers to the idea that the human mind at birth is ‘tabula rasa:’ a ‘blank slate’ without any innate mental content, and free from information, rules, opinions or biases….

Much like the picture frame, we acquire identifying qualities and characteristics over time that help to distinguish us as singular people. As ‘tabula rasa,’ this image holds the inherent contradiction we share as human beings: we both express uniquely individual personalities and share a common humanity based on the universally experienced journey from birth to death.

This ‘portrait without a person’ is a picture of each of us.”

With the novel coronavirus pandemic erasing borders and bringing the world closer in both terrifying and heartening ways, the idea of a singular portrait of humanity, of “oneness” harmonizing individual difference, becomes that much more palpable.

The show’s intended exhibition dates coincide with California’s shelter-in-place response to the pandemic, and has yet to open. Please see exhibition images here.