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Associate Professor Judith Aronson's Photo Included in the National Portrait Gallery

March 2, 2013

Associate Professor Judith Aronson's photograph of Robert Lowell has been included in the exhibition "Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets" at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian.

"I'm of course very pleased and a bit humbled," Aronson says of the inclusion of Lowell's portrait.  

"I would say [the portrait of Lowell] is typical of the kind of picture I like to take: catching people off guard in one of their characteristic poses or expressions. It usually helps to have another person around to talk to the subject so he or she isn't paying attention to me. And this was the case with Lowell."

Unlike the photo of Sarah Caldwell (above), which was commissioned by Ms. magazine, Lowell's sitting was much more spontaneous.  In the late 70's, Aronson was being visited by a literary critic and scholar who would eventually become her husband. He asked if she would mind if Lowell stopped by to have coffee and discuss poetry.  

"I watched the two of them talk, and soon realized that here was a photo opportunity. I was granted affectionate permission — although it was the first time I met Lowell — to take his picture on the one condition: I would cut his hair. And so I did, taking pictures before and after," Aronson says. 

Lowell's photograph is not the first of Aronson's to receive national attention. Her photograph of Saul Bellow and Janis Bellow (below) was published by the New York Review of Books.

Aronson's photograph of Seamus Heaney and Marie Heaney (below), taken shortly before Seamus Heaney won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, is currently on auction through Bonhams.

These photographs can also be found in Aronson's Likenesses, a collection of black and white images and personal reflections of artists, poets and authors.  Published by Lintott Press in 2010 and available in a limited edition in 2012, Likenesses spans three decades of Aronson's work in England and America.

To those interested in photography, Aronson says, "Learn how to edit your photos and frame them in the camera, not in production unless you absolutely have to, and you will become a better photographer."

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