Over the course of the past decade, Swiss artist Thilo Hoffman has consistently worked by intruding—politely—into the lives of individuals and organizations. Working in collaboration with his subjects, he acts more as an impresario than an artist, enabling participants to realize their dreams and wishes via his deceptively simple film and photography projects.
For his exhibition at The Aldrich, Hoffmann recruited a group of fourteen area high school students as collaborators in the creation of unique “self-portraits,” photographic portrayals in which each student decided the location, the composition, the right shot, and finally the title of the picture. The creative impulse behind each portrait and the direction of the photo shoot was completely in the hands of the subject, with the only rule being that the student in the portrait should be half the size of the finished photograph, a ratio that allows the chosen setting to take on maximum significance.
One fact was certain from the beginning: Hoffmann wanted the students, not their parents, to be the guiding creative force behind the photographs. This was accomplished (in most cases) by Hoffmann communicating directly with the students via the now ubiquitous medium of texting. As Hoffmann quipped, “Five hundred texts later, we have an exhibition.” It should be noted that the typical photo session for High School Portraits resulted in at least fifty shots, and there were several sessions that generated close to eighty.
Hoffmann’s process raises the question of exactly who is the artist. He sees his role as being simply to empower his subjects; the primary creative impulse comes from the person in front of the camera.
Richard Klein, Interim Co-Director.