"The Outwin 2016" Finalist: Daniel James McInnis

Two girls embracing and staring straight into the camera
Heidi and Lily, Ohio 2014 / Daniel James McInnis / 2014 / Collection of the Artist / © Daniel James McInnis

Out of over 2,500 entries in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, 43 artists have their work shown in the exhibition “The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today.” Read more about one of the finalists, Daniel James McInnis.

What about the sitters inspired you?

I submitted a double portrait of two students in our Art Department: Heidi Rotroff and Lillian Hill. They are fast friends, and continue to be, even though Lillian graduated last year. I was struck by the diversity of their aesthetics, their looks, and yet still had such an obvious bond. The goal was to highlight the friendship between the two women, as there's too much in the media about women not getting along with each other. I also frankly wanted to celebrate the diversity of race between the two students, as promoting diversity should continue to be a part of any university's mission. I haven't seen as many inter-racial friendships in the rural midwest as I have other places I've lived, but I am hopeful. Diversity and race are very important issues to me.

What made you decide to depict this sitter as you did?

I wanted a closeness, both physically and existentially. I wanted them touching each other, but in a way that would imply a bond – a friendship between the two women – and a strength together. I had seen them interact many times previously, and there was evidence of non-verbal communication between the two that implied an interpersonal wisdom and sophisticated cognition. I wanted these qualities to be displayed in the image.

What relationship do the materials have to the meaning?

It's all about color and detail. I work with an 8x10 view camera, recording in as much detail as possible the nuances of fashion, skintone, color and expression. Many minute aspects of their visual personalities come together here, such as the writing on Heidi's hand reminding her to do something on May 3rd. The color relationships are very important: Heidi's black and blue cool vs. Lily's exuberant color schemes, the contrasts of the blue and yellow details, and then finally, the blues that connect them. 

How does the piece fit within your larger body of work?

This was a formal departure for me. I have been working on this project of street portraits, mostly of artists, since 2007. I was always careful to emphasize both the subjects' surroundings and their physical forms, especially in New York. Once I moved to Ohio, I started moving the camera closer to the subjects themselves. This is the closest portrait I've made so far, and I think it was successful. I will continue to get spatially closer to the subjects. It's more intimate for the viewer, and to me, even more powerful.

You can see McInnis’s work in “The Outwin 2016: American Portraiture Today,” up now through Jan. 8, 2017. Also, be sure to vote in our People’s Choice Competition.