The ICA collection reflects a history of exhibitions by such trailblazing photographers as Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, Roe Ethridge, Nan Goldin, and Catherine Opie, all of whom are known primarily for portrait-related imagery. Traditionally, portraits document people, often paying tribute to or memorializing them. Portraits might convey information about the subjects’ personalities or social standing through pose, jewelry, clothing, and surroundings. Portraits also image mood, with the figure often looking directly at the artist, and by extension, the viewer.

The artworks included in this collection exhibition move this most traditional of genres in unexpected directions: the elevation of the everyday, the documenting of subcultures, and the depiction of places and events. They expand the tradition of portraiture not only through conceptual modes, but also through medium. A portrait might be a painting or a photograph, but it might also be a caricature, a video, a set of mailed images, a bronze sculpture, a masked mannequin, an open book, favorite records, or even a verdant landscape.