Thomas Dozol: The face we want

Image above: Portrait by Thomas Dozol.


Everyone is alone when they sleep and continues to be alone while they wake. There is a moment upon waking when we are unsure of who we are and where we are. For this moment everyone is equal, in the hazy grogginess of near sleep. In the morning we are the most vulnerable.

Our bedfellows are bathed in unflattering light and the sheets are sticky and the shower will be too cold. The subjects in Dozol’s portraits are all caught in moments of perfect nakedness. The moments he chooses to capture are not the planned sight or the sprezzatura of the talented and beautiful. Dozol has waited and lulled his subjects into the quiet vulnerability that comes after a shower.

dozol 1©Thomas Dozol. (left) Wolfgang; (right)Kai. Images from the series, I’ll Be Your Mirror.


 It’s not the night anymore, it’s the beginning of another day, and the energy required to get that face on has not yet been mustered. His subjects are in the bathroom asquat the cocksool, stretching their eyes, or blankly staring ahead; glazed over as they attempt to put sense into the new day and establish their own existence. It’s a hard thing to do, waking up. No one really wants to do it. There needs to be a buffer of a half hour to really get to grips with the fact that once again we are going to be out in the world. Just like every other quest for self identity, we ritualize the morning and believe in superstitious ideas. A cigarette must be had with coffee, a shower must immediately precede the coffee and if there is an occasion where we have to be supremely self-aware then it’s vital we do our hair.

The amount of control that people normally have over how their image is presented to the world goes beyond what they look like when they leave the house. People who are not celebrities control what pictures are shown online and what happens when their name is typed into Google. The argument that social media exposes us to the world is false. Social media allows people to show the face they want, in the best light they have, with as much post production as they please. Dozol’s subjects not only have no control over how they look when they are photographed, but they also have no say in the post- production. The more control there is, the more control must be stripped away.

dozol 2©Thomas Dozol. (left) Chris; (right) Damien. Images from the series, I’ll Be Your Mirror.


Images of bathing as a candid peek is an old a tradition, and always a woman. A statue of Venus being caught with her hair down from 2nd century crouches in the British Museum, the goddess looks over her shoulder attempting to shield herself from the onlooker; onlookers who have access to her every angle. Rodin’s The Bather is more of a shampoo commercial than it is an examination of vulnerability. In the tradi- tion of painting, the nude caught in the act of washing gave more insight into the idea of women in that society than any understanding into the subject’s actual state of mind. Beautiful women washing and a bit of sideboob. I woke up like this. Even Picasso would make sure that his bathers were facing the most public direction. Dozol’s bathers, conversely, are part of the landscape of the photograph. They fit into the scenery more in tune with Degas’ The Tub than more traditional work, and that is a good thing.

Dozol’s work has an architectural component that make the comparison with sculpture apt. Of equal importance as the wet hair of a model are the parallel lines of the tiles. The subjects’ bodies are divided by steel frames and shower booths. Faces are captured from different angles and shine from perfectly circular mirrors. I’ll Be Your Mirror was Dozol’s first show, and his later work shows that his interest in geometry only increased. While his most recent series show polygons imposed on top of portraits, I’ll be Your Mirror accomplishes the same marriage in a more subtle way. The shining utility of the bathroom contrasts with the flushed, unprepared, skin of his subjects. The backgrounds accentuate the subjects, elevating the picture from more than just a document of the banality of morning existence or a typical nude. In the best pictures, each body is a landscape, the contours of each subject fitting into the diorama.

dozol 3©Thomas Dozol. (left) Patrick; (right) Slava. Images from the series, I’ll Be Your Mirror.


by John Hutt

City Limit at The Journal Gallery