Portrait Photography: Props
In photographing musicians, an instrument is an obvious prop that can help explain something about the subject, frame the photo, or add an interesting or humorous perspective. In the following photographs, Gottlieb has used a harp in three different ways. How would you describe his use of the harp in each photo? In which photo do you think Gottlieb uses the harp most effectively? Explain your choice.
- Portrait of Adele Girard, Turkish Embassy, Washington, D.C., ca. Feb. 1942
- Portrait of Joe Marsala and Adele Girard, Hickory House, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948
- Portrait of Woody Herman, Chubby Jackson, and Abraham Rosen, Carnegie Hall(?), New York, N.Y., ca. Apr. 1946
Gottlieb shot a series of photographs showing musicians in their dressing rooms. Think about why a dressing room might be a good setting for a photograph. Then choose several of the photographs from the series listed below. Note as many details as you can.
- Portrait of Glen Gray, Paramount Theater, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1946
- Portrait of Louis Armstrong, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., ca. July 1946
- Portrait of Jo Stafford, New York, N.Y.(?), ca. July 1946
- Portrait of Billie Holiday and Mister, Downbeat(?), New York, N.Y., ca. June 1946
What can you learn about each subject by examining the items in their dressing room? What else about the dressing room makes it an effective setting for a portrait?
Listen to William Gottlieb's comments on the dressing room series. According to Gottlieb, how did the mirrors help him achieve the effect he wanted? How did he use details in the photograph to show differences in the personalities of Duke Ellington and Glenn Gray?