El Lissitzky. Self-Portrait. 1924

El Lissitzky

Self-Portrait

1924

Medium
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions
5 1/2 x 3 1/2" (13.9 x 8.9 cm)
Credit
Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Shirley C. Burden, by exchange
Object number
1764.2001
Copyright
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Department
Photography
This work is not on view.
El Lissitzky has 108 works  online.
There are 15,314 photographs online.

The essence of New Vision photography is pointedly expressed in this picture, commonly known as The Constructor, which puts the act of seeing at center stage. Lissitzky's hand, holding a compass, is superimposed on a shot of his head that explicitly highlights his eye: insight, it expresses, is passed through the eye and transmitted to the hand, and through it to the tools of production. Devised from six different exposures, the picture merges Lissitzky's personae as photographer (eye) and constructor of images (hand) into a single likeness. Contesting the idea that straight photography provides a single, unmediated truth, Lissitzky held instead that montage, with its layering of one meaning over another, impels the viewer to reconsider the world. It thus marks a conceptual shift in the understanding of what a picture can be.

Gallery label from The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012–April 29, 2013

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