Gary Schneider, Our Unique Identity

Gary Schneider, Genetic Self-Portrait, 1997 (802.2000.1)

“In genetic terms only one percent of you is you. This small fraction of you DNA contains all the necessary genetic information to define for shape; size; eye; hair; and skin color; and every other feature you recognize in the mirror as defining your unique identity.” Jeffrey Hoone, Syracuse, New York, October 2007

Gary Schneider was born in South Africa in 1954. Coming from a painting, performance, and film installation background, he decided to pursue photography. He may be called “the photographer who counts light.” Schneider is well known for painting with light as seen in Heads, a project that began in 1989.

He claims that his portraits never look like the person itself; his work gives a different perspective on photography by photographing the “non-photographic” image of a subject. Based on the idea that all human being are equal, he changes our reality giving a very personal vision.

Gary Schneider, Wilamina, 2004 (2006.37.4)

He must keep the people he photographs comfortable so he uses phrases such as You’re so inside of yourself that shyness becomes irrelevant.

He started his Genetic Self-Portrait project in 1996 and finished it around 1998. While the works have been exhibited and published, they are also in important permanent collections including ICP, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

HandBook, 2010 and Eastman House HandPrints, 2011- are interesting series of “sweat images.” The images themselves are magic; with huge prints, one can really pay attention to all of the details of each subject’s hand. These images are made by imprinting a hand directly onto an 8 x 10” film. The images occur through the deposit of heat and sweat onto the emulsion, a process described as “autothermohydrogram” by John McElhone.

A scanning electron microscope, used in Hair, 1997, or a Fundus 35mm camera used to photograph his own retina are some of the “cameras” he has used in his projects. Through Schneider’s work, we see the close relationship between science and art and how an artist sometimes finds inspiration and help from different fields.

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