Woven Portraits Break Photography's 2D Limits

To develop layered portraits, David Samuel Stern moves beyond Photoshop.

The difference between a portrait and an ordinary photograph has always rested on the photographer’s ability to hint at or extract some element of the human psyche within the subject. This process is easier said than done, as the two-dimensional flatness of the medium can feel limiting. Woven Portraits, a series of composite portraits by photographer David Samuel Stern, forgoes the inherent flatness of the portrait in order to “make portraits that find a way around the ‘declarative once-and-for-all’ within photographic portraits,” says Stern.

Each image in the series is the result of a physical compositing of multiple portraits of individuals in the creative industry. The portraits, created on inkjet vellum parchment, are woven together in an intricately geometrical, checkerboard-like manner. The results are fantastic; the soft, overlapping transparency of each image used interacts exquisitely with the varied facial expressions and body language of the different images, resulting in a portrait that lacks the expected directness of the traditional portraiture, pulling the viewer toward a variety of ways to read the composite image.

Aaron R. White, Dancer

“This approach allows for texture and nuances in the way the images overlay, which highlight the fact that they are objects…photographs are not usually thought as objects…in most cases they’re more like windows that we look through,” Stern tells The Creators Project. Stern’s portraits are more reminiscent of contemporary sculpture than the wide-open windows of portrait photography.

Christina Robson, Dancer

Rebecca Arends, Dancer

Dwayne Brown, Dancer

Elizabeth Coker, Dancer

Woven Portraits is currently on display at Brooklyn’s BAM until December 20th. In order to view the physical textures of Stern’s portraits that are invisible to the digital screen, you’ll need to purchase a BAM Harvey Theater ticket. You can learn more about David Samuel Stern on the artist’s website.


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