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Michael J Berkowitz/ Fine Art Portraits

Recently, I’ve been exploring some themes inspired by Victorian photographic practices, in particular Momento Mori and Mourning portraits. Momento Mori were portraits taken of the recently deceased, as a last image to remember the loved one by. Families would dress the corpse up in their best, make them up, fix their hair and photograph them as if they were asleep. This practice has quite a bit of resonance for me as the first girl I loved in my teens committed suicide and I vividly recall going to the funeral and gazing at her in the open casket, wearing her favorite dress, her beautiful red hair brushed and fanned out on the satin pillow.

I have made several attempts so far of my interpretation of Momento Mori. Again, I have paired images. The first is a clothed and more proper portrait, one to be shared with everyone. The second more intimate…

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Mourning Portraits

Michael J Berkowitz/ Fine Art Portraits

In Victorian times, it was also customary to photograph a grieving widow on the occasion of the passing of a loved one. The mourner would dress up in all her black finery to commemorate the occasion. Even her jewelry would be black, made expressly for this purpose. I have made several attempts of my interpretation of these kinds of images. lack jewelry is not easy to find so I have designed and made my own for each shoot. As before, I have paired the images. The first is a more formal image as the woman in mourning would appear to friends and family at the funeral. The second image is more intimate, as she would appear when finally alone, contemplating the lost touch of her lover, which she will never again feel. In the first set, I have incorporated Anemone flowers which have long symbolized “lost love that will never…

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“In the c…

“In the course of a life, we never “graduate” from working on an identity; we simply rework it with the materials at hand. From the start, online worlds provided new materials . Online, the plain represented themselves as glamorous, the old as young, the young as older. Those of modest means wore elaborate virtual jewelry. In virtual space, the crippled walked without crutches, and the shy improved their chances as seducers……You begin by naming and building an avatar. You work from a menu with a vast array of choices for it’s looks and clothes. If these are not sufficient, you can design a customized avatar from scratch. Now, pleased with your looks, you have the potential……to live a life that will enable you to “love your life”.
Sherry Turkle from “Alone Together: Why we Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other”

My subjects clearly, from my interactions with them, are investigating and exploring their identities. For both young and old, it’s an ongoing process, changing as their lives and circumstances change. I help them create “avatars”, versions of their selves that are them at their best, their most beautiful and alluring. However, unlike an online animation, these avatars actually look like them, are in fact them, in a heightened and more idealized form, but clearly showing them as they truly are. In this way, it is a more powerful depiction of their selves as they wish to be.

This coming weekend, May 18th and 19th, I’ll be participating in the Long Island Arts Festival as my studio is in LIC. I’ll be having an open studio, and in addition to exhibiting some of my work, I’ll be offering all comers the opportunity to be photographed by me for free and receive a free print. I’ll do up to 4 shots, using any of the tons of jewelry, costume, and accessories that I have available in my studio. For those of you in the NYC area, look up the festival online for all the pertinent info or contact me directly if you want to come and be photographed.

Here’s some of my latest work. Enjoy:Image

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“In games where we expect to play an avatar, we end up being ourselves in the most revealing ways; on social networking sites such as Facebook, we think we will be presenting ourselves, but our profile ends up as somebody else- often the fantasy of who we want to be. Distinctions blur.”- Sherry Turkle, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other”

I am now reading this wonderful book and this quote expresses my feelings about photographing my subjects in these fantasy costumes and vignettes. In playing a role, they are able to reveal themselves. At the same time, though, they can see themselves as an idealized version of themselves.

Fine Art America

I’ve just put up a profile on Fine Art America, where you can go to purchase Giclee’ prints of my photos. Go to:  http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/michael-berkowitz.html

Back at the turn of the 20th century and up until the late 1930s, huge numbers of postcards were produced all over the world featuring romantic couples. These images are beautiful, sophisticated, passionate and tender and often very modern looking. These particular images are all from my own personal collection, presented for your viewing pleasure but also as inspiration, both for those photographers, professional and amateur, who wish to photograph couples and also to prospective clients who would like to commission me to photograph them. I have photographed many couples and generally those images are private, not to be shared with the general public. In another post, however, I will present a few of my own images of couples that I am free to show.

Lovely hand tinted image.

Many of the romantic images are tinted an overall shade of color, in this case a hot passionate pink. I love these pictures and look forward to incorporating the technique into my own work.

Another toned image, this one in a more delicate pink as he whispers sweet nothings in her ear.

Quite passionate and sexy. The French caption says, “In life, we go forwards tenderly entwined. We love each other with a mad love.”

Again, in French, “The Kiss”

The blue tint lends this image a certain mood as the couple sits in the parlor at night whispering ardently words of love.

Again, hot pink passion.

The cool green lends a different mood.

He holds her face so tenderly. Gentlemen, take heed! A woman loves when her man gently caresses her face.

In this beautiful picture, the “man” seems incredibly feminine; perhaps a lesbian couple. Lesbians want romance, too. Some of my first clients were women couples.

A sensual image, you can almost smell the scent of her perfumed bosom and feel, as his hands do, her soft warm flesh through her flimsy dress.

An incredibly passionate photo. Gentlemen, not the hand strong and yet tenderly holding her face. So strong and yet so gentle.

Interesting composition with flowers.

Nice intimate close-up image. I think time, not intention, has caused the strange coloration, though it’s a great effect.

The lovely French verse reads, ” A loving kiss that takes the lips like holy communion. Without you, earthly happiness is just an illusion.”

A lovely warm sepia tone conveys the warmth of the couple’s ardor.

A surprisingly contemporary image. She’s halfway undressed, hinting at the passionate encounter to come.

Nicely hand colored.

Another passionate kiss.

Interesting use of a circular frame with floral decoration.

Again, warm and intimate in sepia tone.