Larry LytleThe Shroud Series

“A Portrait of My Friends, in Their Death Shroud,
with Their Favorite/Most Important Possessions”

"A Portrait of My Friends, in Their Death Shroud, with Their Favorite/Most Important Possessions" (1995-1997), is the third installment in my Portrait of My Friends series. The idea of the Shroud came to me as I looked through an art magazine that had a picture of "The Dead Christ," a life-size statue at a church in Italy. I thought about all of the cultures who buried their dead with various artifacts for various reasons, a custom we no longer practice. I told my friends to pick a few things that are either important to them or that they'd want people to associate with their lives, and then posed them on a constructed "set."

I began The Portrait of My Friends series in 1980 with "A Portrait of My Friends from the Neck to the Knees." Three Polaroid SX-70's were taken of each person and mounted side by side. No faces were shown and my friends were encouraged to wear things that the public would never see them in—lingerie, sleepwear, nude, etc. Without knowing who you're looking at, the viewer becomes a voyeur and the poser, retaining complete anonymity, becomes an exhibitionist. This series still continues.

The second series, which began in 1992 and finished in 1994, was titled "A Portrait of My Friends with the Favorite Part of Their Body." I photographed each person's favorite body part, printed it, and hung it behind them on the "set." Each person sat in the same chair in the same set, only their body part and their interaction with the camera were different. There are 12 images in this series.

The fourth series takes place in the realm of semiotics. In "A Portrait of My Friends with Their Three Most Prominent Personality Traits" (1997-1999). I created a book of photographic symbols describing different character traits. Each person chose three symbols from the book, and I placed the selected images in frames which they wore around their neck. The observers of the work will have access to a book of the symbols to "look up" the various meanings. I've always been fascinated with the way we meet new people. I wanted to create a situation that gave the sitter an opportunity to show their public or private face, and leave to the viewer some means to interpret that. There are 18 images in this series.

I like to photograph people with whom I am intimately involved and tell their stories through the portraits. I have always felt that the art that speaks to us best over time is the art that portrays ourselves and the repetition of the Human Condition.