One hundred and seven

Marsha Hunt

1968 by Patrick Lichfield
National Portrait Gallery

From such an infamous photographer as Patrick Lichfield, known for capturing beautiful people beautifully, we would expect nothing less than this iconic portrait. More than this however, here Lichfield has constructed something; there is something Modernist in the way he has approached Hunt’s positioning. Her body is arranged in harmony, fragmented in angles but held together by Hunt’s person. Our focus is centred to her face, the wonderful circle of soft hair; it appears as a flower head, the limbs spreading below like roots to the earth or like petals. The upturned open eyes draw us into this centre, while the limbs grow to escape this personality; they are abstract against the seamless white background that has no beginning or end. The right hand grounds Hunt in this abyss, strong with its outstretched arm, while the legs perfectly mirror one another in a scissor of natural equality. We barely notice the nudity in this image; it is un-provocative, speaking only of skin, a unity of exposed ethnicity. This harmony of positioning, this unfolding of body, is similar in execution to Lewis’s circles in postcard one hundred and five; there he made them dance in a harmony of articulation, here Lichfield does the same thing by simply using the body itself. Hunt is portrayed truly as an icon, her body a stamp of presence, the soft frame of her afro a shimmering halo.

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