The ancient Greeks and the Elizabethans had their heroes, their icons. But in America’s myth-making culture, a kind of karaoke culture, people seek to mimic them, to play the hero’s or celebrity’s part themselves – at least on the surface.

This, and a story I heard at a dinner party  about Charlie Chaplin anonymously entering a Chaplin look-alike contest and coming in in third place, inspired me to go to Key West and the annual Ernest Hemingway contest. To make formal portraits of some of the men vying there to be the most Hemingway-esque in form. To get a bead on how and why they wanted to channel one of the manliest figures of the 20th century.

To try and create on film a moment where Hemingway came to life throug these contenders. Including using the same lighting Karsh did when he shot Hemingway in 1957. And having each sitter put on a replica of the great man’s sweater I had specially made by (?), a holy grail: as iconic in its association with him as that famous and timeless Karsh portrait.

At the studio, I told each sitter about the original shoot with Karsh: how Hemingway just returned from Africa and a terrible plane crash and was in agony; asked them to contemplate the amazing amount of pain he was in but his equally amazing focus he had to sit quietly for a portrait.

Everything came together to take them to a place of pure expression: being Hemingway, inhabiting him; looking like, even feeling like The Man himself. Just what I was after.

What I hope viewers see are these surprising reflections. I like looking at the images collectively, letting the lines between them blur. For fellow photographers, it’s also a story about going outside your comfort zone, taking risks, and producing a hig caliber personal project on your own steam, as I did. For Hemingway enthusiasts, it’s a colorful tale. For readers in general, it’s a small but revealing character and popular culture study.

Maybe “hemingway” should be a verb.

Copyright ︎ 2019 — Brooklyn, NYC