What Artists Look Like – 2017

Jay Goldsmith

Photographer Jay Goldsmith

Exhibition opens at Discover Portsmouth

Portraits of local artists & their work,
Friday November 3 – Saturday December 23, 2017
Opening Night – Art ‘Round Town Friday November 3 5-8pm

Portsmouth, New Hampshire…Jay Goldsmith’s latest exhibition, “What Artists Look Like,” is an homage to the days of crisp black and white. In an age of instant digital photography and high-speed inkjet printers, he missed his old darkroom. The free exhibition features unique portraits of Seacoast artists, and runs from Friday November 3 to Saturday December 23, 2017 at Discover Portsmouth.

In three decades as a commercial photographer with partner Julia Russell, Goldsmith has won several awards for his natural-light family and children’s portraits. His portraiture relies to a great extent on a sense of place. “What Artists Look Like” comes from that same environmental tradition. The exhibition will also include two creative works by each of the artists depicted.

What I do – by Photographer Jay Goldsmith

I don’t believe you can “capture” the essence of a person in a single photograph, unless that person is very one dimensional or the photographer much more skillful than I am. A picture may very well be worth a thousand words, I’d say that’s about right, but a thousand words is far from something like a novel, which can explore in three or four hundred pages the scope and psychological complexity of a subject. As a portrait photographer, I can capture a likeness, even a pleasing likeness, and that might be enough. Or perhaps some aspect of the subject’s personality. If it’s an aspect of an interior life, I’ve done very well.

I often try to key into some feature of the sitter’s day to day life, and, with artists, frequently something removed from that person’s art. Often I use a prop to indicate something otherwise unseen about the subject: a personal library, for example, or a piano, or an hand-made easel, of a length of canvas, a fancy bit of clothing. I use body language and pose: an artist may not enjoy sitting and I may only show a small part of her, perhaps peeking around the edge of a painting.I am drawn to the geometry of a location and that can become the dominant visual: a large piece of torn paper (which I would ask the artist to tear) or the architectural lines of a room.

Unlike the studio work I did the first year of this continuing exhibit, these second and third years have been “environmental” in nature: I go to the artist and photograph within his/her environment. That can be challenging if the space is new to me, so I often do a pre-session visit to plan and sketch out the portrait for at least a starting point for the session to come.

So I talk to the artist and learn and then I try to capture…something.

A special Opening Reception will be held Friday, November 3, from 5-8 pm during Art ‘Round Town.

Exhibition Sponsors

Fuller Foundation


All of Portsmouth Historical Society’s exhibitions and publications are made possible through the support of our membership and trustees. We are grateful to the many generous sponsors who also helped underwrite this effort.