Stephen Dupont’s Polaroid portraits from Sing-Sing, shot on 665 negative positive black and white film, are moments captured during preparation for the annual festival at Mount Hagen in Papua New Guinea.
The choice to conduct this study in black and white analogical film at this world renowned colourful display of ceremonial tribal decoration, could be perceived as a way of capturing and commenting silently, represented through the gaze of the subjects, the transition of the tribes from their discovery in the highlands by Australian Michael Leahy in the 30’s, to their adaptation to modern day Papua New Guinea in the new millennium.
Film maker Bob Connolly writing about Sing-Sing and Stephen Dupont’s work
quotes British anthropologist Michael O’Hanlon who describes the purpose of tribal decoration in the highland tribes and explains the highly political nature of the custom to demonstrate the seriousness of the display, he states: ‘We often think of adornment as an artificially added layer, concealing what ‘really’ lies beneath… The Wahgi concept is rather different. For them the decorated appearance is more often thought to reveal than to conceal.’
It is the spirit of this statement that we can see reflected in Stephen Dupont’s photographs where he has successfully achieved to capture this concept that has been instilled in the tribes people through his timeless yet revealing series of portraits in Sing-Sing.
(Stephen Dupont | Sing-Sing, PRIVATE 54 – LOST, pages 34-39)