Why do we find certain actors, models and recording artists fascinating while others fail to attract our interest? That's the theme of this rewarding book that investigates the dual mysteries of our reactions to personality and appearance.
While many photographers have produced attractive works focused on famous people, Up Close and Personal is better balanced with thought than most. The format helps this by providing a preface from Cameron Diaz (who is, to me, his most well portrayed subject), comments by many of the subjects about the process and their reactions to it, and Mr. Dunas's own observations about his role and recollections of many of his shoots. The text is in English, French and German to make it more accessible to readers.
Mr. Dunas does portraits in both black-and-white and in color, but seems to do his best work in black-and-white. Age and imperfections become points of attraction in his creased, shadowed faces. He also favors cropping parts of the faces, much in the way that Alex Katz does with his paintings, to give a more candid feel. Sometimes the truncation doesn't quite work because he slightly over does it. Especially interesting are his uses of hands to complement faces.
I thought that about 85 percent of the images were excellent or better, and none were below average.
His most intriguing works are two series involving women over time. The first series begins with Cameron Diaz, taken in 1989. He shoots her again in the same setting in 1994 holding the 1989 portrait. Then he returns to photograph her again in the same setting in 1999, holding the 1994 portrait. You get a sense of her evolution over time (both in maturity and in beauty) along with a wonderful symbol of how our present is shaped by our past. The changes in her hair style from one portrait to another are also intriguing. The second series is of Alexa Davalos in 1996 when she appears as more girl than woman and then in 2001 when she appears as a full-developed woman . . . again in the same scene. These two were taken outdoors so you also see a change in the background tree that heightens the interest.
The book has many wonderful images. Among my other favorites are a diagonal Morgan Freeman (2000), Bob Hoskins with a hand over his face (1998), Xzibit with hands on his eyes (2000), Jackson Browne (1995), face of Salma Hayek (1996), Leon Russell (1972), Emily Watson (1996), Rae Dawn Chong (2001), Rebecca De Mornay (1992 and 1994), Bonnie Raitt (1998), B.B. King (1996), John Lee Hooker (1995), Elizabeth Davidtz (1993), James Coburn (1998), Holland, Dozier, Holland (1998), Chris Cooper (2002), Nick Nolte (1996), LeeLee Sobieski (2001), Keb' Mo' (2001), Mike Leigh (1999), Anne Parillaud (1992), Scotty Moore (1998), Slash (1997), Keeley Smith (2001), Gregg Allman (1998), Martin Sheen (2000), Miranda Richardson (2002), Natasha Henstridge (1992), Diane Lane (1994), and Robin Tunney (2000). As you can see from the subjects, these are not all "pretty" faces like a book of fashion models would provide.
Naturally, for subjects like directors and musicians, most of their appeal comes from their talent . . . which may not show in their faces.
As I finished the book, I was left with the thought that our faces are the reflections also of our soul and character. What does your face show the world about you?