Senam Okudzeto: 'Untitled (Face #182 Senam),' 2007

Artist, writer and founder of Art in Social Structures

"Senam is an international artist and theorist with Ghanaian and American roots and is exemplary of the post-independence generation of politically and culturally savvy intellectuals and artists. We met in 2005 and her friendship has not only influenced my work (she was a contributing writer to my monograph of twenty years, Blow-Up) but has also connected me to Ghanaian society." — Lyle Ashton Harris, Excessive Exposure


Captions by Kalia Brooks

Thelma Golden: 'Untitled (Face #71 Thelma),' 2006


Director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem

"In these darkly chocolate and curiously haunting — yet open, humane, and remarkably individualistic and inviting — photographs, Harris is signifying both on his own series of 'white face' self-portraits (the other side of black representation, as it were) as well as on the long and contorted history of the figure of the black in Western portraiture." — Henry Louis Gates Jr., Excessive Exposure.

Joella Johnson: 'Untitled (Face #1 Joella),' 1998


Harris' grandmother

"When I saw her image, I cried. By seeing her in the photograph, I realized she was going to die. I saw her soul, her beauty, her fragility; there was something about her representation as premonition." — Harris, from an interview with Pamela Newkirk, Art News Magazine 2011

Lilla Forrester: 'Untitled (Face #34 Mother Dear),' 1998


Spiritual healer

"[The desire to construct one's image] extends to people like my grandmother Joelle Johnson, or Mother Dear, an amazing Jamaican woman with a botanica in the Bronx [whose potions and blessings helped break Los Angeles' ten year hold on me and return to New York]. I have observed that people have a strong desire to present themselves in a particular way." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Shaway Yeh: 'Untitled (Face #21 Shaway),' 1998


Editorial director, Modern Media Publishing Group

"Looking over the work, I've come to realize how much this project is about my return to New York, a way of acknowledging and documenting relationships that are important to me. And I'm interested in going beyond a superficial rendering of the face to engage character. In one way or another, all of my subjects have dealt with a certain amount of pain — I think we all have. It's part of the human condition." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Jane Hart: 'Untitled (Face #12 Jane),' 1998


Gallerist, art dealer and publisher

"In a way, Harris' subjects are not so much sitting for the camera as they are auditioning for our approval. This is striking, because portraits are usually deployed to act on the idea of imparting an individuality that reaches down to reveal the very soul of the sitter. Or so the legend goes. In this legend, portraits tend to be vehicles for social projection." — from an essay by Okwui Enwezor, Excessive Exposure

Sadie Hope Gund: 'Untitled (Face #11 Sadie),' 1998


Granddaughter of Agnes Gund

"I'm interested in exploring the body as a site of both pain and pleasure in all its ambivalence. I'm engaged in a democratization of the subject matter — equivalence, if you will — whether it's photographing Agnes Gund's granddaughter Sadie, or Mystery, who dances for a dollar to make his living." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Anna Deavere-Smith: 'Untitled (Face #151 Anna),' 2006


Actress, playwright and professor

"When I first met Anna, I approached her in thigh-high boots at George Wolfe's famous New Year's Day party, and told her she had Adrian Piper's energy. Our first collaboration, 'Looking for Daddy,' came out of that meeting, which was the beginning of a long-lasting friendship and creative exchange." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Conrad Muhammad (Tiller): 'Untitled (Face #138 Conrad),' 1999


Former minister of Mosque No. 7, founded by Malcolm X

"Before being commissioned to shoot Conrad for Vibe Magazine in 1999, we met while I was a sophomore at Wesleyan in the mid-1980s. He was visiting as an exchange student for a semester and we were both living in the Malcom X Residence House." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Kwame Anthony Appiah: 'Untitled (Face #192 Kwame),' 2007


Philosopher, cultural theorist and novelist

"While living in Ghana in 2005, I encountered an inflammatory cover story in a leading Ghanaian newspaper about gays and lesbians in Ghana. This deeply disturbed me, and I knew I could call on Appiah's philosophical authority to help me deconstruct what was happening. This eventually led to his essay, 'Lyle's Images,' for my monograph Blow-Up, which became a document that examined and diffused the implications of these events." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Chuck Close, 'Untitled (Face #2 Chuck),' 1998



"Chuck and I met in the early 1990s, and have since been a mutual inspiration for each other's work. In particular, he was a huge supporter of this work and first interviewed me for it in 1998, the transcript of which appears in the book." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Lyle Ashton Harris, 'Untitled (Face #155 Lyle),' 2000


"I began taking self-portraits in the 1980s to explore the dissonance and ambivalence I experienced in relation to my own image. About a year ago [1998], I started photographing myself using this Polaroid technique and initially had difficulty dealing with the result — it seemed somewhat heavy. When I looked at the photograph again after several weeks, I said to myself, 'If I'm going to be subjected to this, I'm bringing in my friends as sitters!' " — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Henry Louis Gates: 'Untitled (Face #190 Skip),' 2007


Writer, editor, critic and educator

"Gates' seminal book, Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the 'Racial' Self, was a major influence on my early and formative thinking about art … His discourse on the role of the harlequin and the potency of the trickster was especially influential, as it became the impetus for my first body of work, 'The Americas.' " — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Reverend Al Sharpton: 'Untitled (Face #145 Al),' 2004


Minister, civil rights activist and radio talk show host

"The portrait of activist-cum-politician-cum-showman-cum-rabble-rouser is strikingly precise because of its ordinariness, especially in its ability to transform and reduce the figure who faces the viewer into nothing more than another face in the crowd." — Okwui Enwezor, Excessive Exposure

Cheryl Riley: 'Untitled (Face #27 Cheryl),' 1998


Artist, furniture designer and art consultant

"I think my work clearly reflects a degree of gentleness, but at the same time it also engages a deep ambivalence and deprivation." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Dorian (Mystery): 'Untitled (Back #17 Mystery),' 1998


Exotic dancer

"To me the back suggests a certain vulnerability. I'm also fascinated by indexical markings on the body, and how people acquire them." — Harris, Excessive Exposure

Ike Ude: 'Untitled (Face #41 Ike),' 1999


Artist and publisher

"Lyle Ashton Harris notes the back of the head conveys a certain vulnerability but also the suggestion of concealment." — Okwui Enwezor, Excessive Exposure