Book Review: Sandro Miller, 'The Malkovich Sessions'
Image Above: ©Sandro Miller 2016, Book Cover, 'The Malkovich Sessions' / Courtesy of Glitterati Incorporated
After watching Being John Malkovich for the first time, I imagined John Malkovich playing all of the characters in my life–the barista serving my coffee, my roommate, Kim Kardashian on my Twitter feed, and my mom, to name a few. Photographer Sandro Miller translated this common post-viewing - Being John Malkovich thought experiment into a 17-year project, which has culminated into a volume of stunning portraits. The Malkovich Sessions, published by Glitterati Incorporated, collects photographs of John Malkovich playing different characters, and documents Miller and Malkovich’s journey in making them.
Image Above: ©Sandro Miller 2016, after Gordon Parks, 'The Malkovich Sessions' / Courtesy of Glitterati Incorporated
The first section of portraits focuses on Malkovich inhabiting different personas, whether they are iconic celebrities (Marilyn Monroe), evil dictators (Adolf Hitler) or alternate, imagined identities (a literal sausage-grasping priest). Miller and Malkovich’s creative chemistry are evident in the images – the portraits are uninhibited in both subject and scope.
Image Above: ©Sandro Miller 2016, after Andy Warhol, 'The Malkovich Sessions' / Courtesy of Glitterati Incorporated
The second portion is a very specific and meticulous project of recreating masterpieces by iconic photographers–these range from Diane Arbus to Pierre et Gilles. An icon inserting himself into iconic works seems like an impossible task, a sort of in-real-life Photoshop collage of disparate imagery. Yet, these reinterpretations don’t feel awkward or ironic; Malkovich and Miller aren’t trying to trick you. Instead, they went to great lengths to create a third artifact out of the the artifacts of the original photographs and Malkovich himself. Notably, Miller and Malkovich’s interpretation of Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” captures an intensity that matches the original, but weaves a different staging-conscious tale.
Image Above: ©Sandro Miller 2016, after Diane Arbus, 'The Malkovich Sessions' / Courtesy of Glitterati Incorporated
Miller and Malkovich’s creative relationship also extends to film. Stills from the award-winning short film Butterflies, Ecstasy, and The Allegory of the Cave are shown, and like the portraits are intensely character-driven. The multiplicity and the morphology of identity is ever-present. Through each iteration of Malkovich’s persona that Miller captures, we can grasp the plasticity of our own.