Timothy White has photographed countless celebrities, but he is far from a paparazzo. Although his work features some of the most recognizable faces in film and music, White’s photos succeed where other photographers fail, drawing out pieces of the person behind the persona, revealing something behind the surface of celebrity.
Case in point: White’s 2001 portrait of Elizabeth Taylor. The photo shows Taylor emerging from a limousine onto a red carpet, flashbulbs popping—a typical setting for the famous. Taylor, however, is giving the middle finger to onlookers—with a wide smile on her face. The image suggests an alternate universe where Taylor is permitted to openly display her contempt for the star machinery. At the same time, White seems to be mocking photographers who religiously wait for the perfect shot.
Another example of White’s ability to coax unguarded moments from people accustomed to controlling their public image is his 1998 portrait of Paul Newman. In this image, Newman is sporting his famous tight-lipped, bad-boy stare, complete with aviator sunglasses and cowboy boots, but instead of riding a horse, or motorcycle, Newman is cruising through Central Park on a mini-bike. As with the Taylor portrait, White is poking fun at something, but this time he is allowing Newman to poke fun at himself, and his macho persona.
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut will exhibit some of White’s most famous large-scale photographs in “Timothy White: Portraits,” through Sunday, June 5. (203) 438-4519; www.aldrichart.org.