A single, quick glance at Billie #14is all it takes to burn the name Lyle Ashton Harris into ones brain forever. Ashtons transfer print from an old Polaroid is so evocative of a long-gone glamour era, so transformative of Billie Holidays unmistakable visage, that no one who sees this dye-diffused photo of the jazz immortal, her mouth yanked wide by a long, lonesome bit of song, can ever forget it.
The image is included in the Lyle Ashton Harris: Blow Up exhibit, a retrospective of the photographers work. Its the first real survey of Harris work, spanning two decades and including the oddly formal self-portraits that gained him his earliest acclaim. The shows title is a nod to Harris contention that photography is a social performance, not a source of flat, iconic images. He blows up our ideas of portraiture and re-imagines mass-media imagery (thus the occasional comparisons to Warhol), focusing on our role as the reader of the image rather than the image itself.