New York artist Sam Bassett takes portraits to the next level. Blending the feel of installation art with plan ol’ ethereal awesomeness, he shoots his subjects in a way that manages to be about them while also immersing them into something that transcends them as well. The results are completely kick-ass images that encompass more than who a person is and what they do, but creates an energy and atmosphere of how what they’ve done has shaped their life. The environment of the portrait becomes a reflection of them as a whole – their history and accomplishments – rather than just a documentation of their physical appearance.
This is one of my favourites, of celebrity author, Vanity Fair journalist, and all around bon vivant Dominick Dunne. I’m not sure what he’s trying to do to that concrete sphere, but whatever it is, I’m sure it’s witty.
Bassett is also a prolific film-maker, creating eight films in 2008 alone, focusing on the eclectic, idiosyncratic, and fascinating minds of individuals, like himself, who don’t fit inside the box; some of whom are also subjects of his photographs. Unabashed and unafraid, his films and their subjects feel like a study of abnormalcy; a glorious refusal to follow societal norms and a determined passion to follow their own beat. Bassett is like that too, and so a camaraderie and connection is formed. A sort of freakshow fraternity, where art and irreverence and the pursuit of one’s own mould-breaking ideal are paramount, and ostensibly mandatory for membership. Whatever the rules, I want in this club. I want to pledge.
For proof of just how fucking rad abandoning yourself to your own idea of creation can really be, check out “Let Me Introduce Myself.” It’s not necessarily about making sense, it’s about making art. And if Bassett makes it, I will watch.