Masked and Anonymous

Luc Sante at The Paris Review:

The press photographer’s task is to obtain a likeness of the person who is at the center of the news. This proves difficult when the subject, who is either accused of crimes or tied, however flimsily, to someone who is, wants to avoid being photographed at all costs. Hounded at every step, unable to escape, even in shackles, the subject resorts to makeshift concealments—hat, sleeve, lapel, handkerchief, newspaper—in order to prevent facial capture. The photographer can only pursue, shadow, perhaps verbally goad the subject, waiting for a slip or a stumble that will cause the mask to drop. When that fails to happen, the photographer’s sole option is to photograph the mask. The public, inflamed by press coverage of the case, wants a face it can charge with blame (and, often enough, spread the blame to faces that bear it a superficial resemblance), but is instead offered a metonym: hat, handkerchief, newspaper. The photographer, in quest of a portrait, has delivered in its place an event: the defeat of portraiture by the subject.

more here.