Z. Michael Schmidt’s predominantly black-and-white photographic portraits depict the solitude of the human condition with compassionate simplicity. Never posing his subjects or imparting instructions, Schmidt’s tightly cropped images focus on faces and the stories they tell. Stark, clear, and straightforward, his images are pared down to their essentials, the subjects weaving complex webs of human emotion via simple gestures and candid expressions.
In early works including Scream, (Switzerland), Secrets, (Switzerland), and Smile, (Switzerland), Schmidt captures his animated subjects in tight compositions. Rich with subtle detail, these photographs, taken in an asylum, emote the diverse reactions to involuntary enclosure. In his later contemplative portraits documenting the every day Señor Louis, (New York), Pensive (New York), Father and Son (Jerusalem), and Cleopatra (New York), the artist exposes the psychology of his subjects with solemn intensity. These works adopt a serious tone, documenting unspoken exchanges and complex body language with grace and empathy.
Sphinx, (Egypt), an outlier in an oeuvre of portraits, chronicles a desert journey on horseback, capturing the countenance of the Sphinx like a traditional portrait.