The People's Project
In this series Renee Cox embarks on a formalistic journey in portraiture, that is a strident departure from her past work in which Cox herself is the central figure. In works as small as a standard Polaroid with others as large as seven feet high, cox escavates an individuated mystique in her subjects. Although the ages for the people in her portrait series range from seven to eighty, the average age is thirty. All are presented as if they belong to the "beautiful" people set. Even in the portrait of "Infom", enveloped in her lover's arms, with the scar from a mastectomy clearly visible, she is depicted as a figure of ennobled stoicism.
These portraits are grounded in two distinct strata, one of searching for the identity of the subject and the other in the actualization of her signature as photographer. Without clothing or garments to contextualize the status or class of the subject, Cox, within a tabloid of blackness, creates portraits that definitively elicit a response from the viewer. The viewer is forced to ponder and linger on scant emblems of data through the expression and gesture of the model. It is this intense act to scrutinize that cox evokes in her series through attitude, gesture, and pose of the subject. These photographs make us reflect. According to Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, "...with regard to the heterogeneitiy of "good" photographs, all we can say is that the object speaks, it induces us,...., to think"