Let Us Praise Famous Men is a series of videos that document the creation of historical icons through film and media. Each video focuses on a singular historical figure and their representations in film. This video explores the iconic representation of Abraham Lincoln.
Let Us Praise Famous Men as a title is a re-appropriation of Walker Evans and James Agee’s 1930’s photography series entitled “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” which detailed the lives of sharecroppers in the South. This title was taken from the book of Ecclesiasticus in the Old Testament (“Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us.” Ecclesiasticus 44:1). Just as Evans and Agee questioned the value of the “common man” during the Depression, the title in the context of these videos serves as a question on duality: who is the famous man? Is it the actor, or the historical figure they portray?
The objective of this artwork will be to raise issues with the representation of historical figures in mainstream film and the misassociation many viewers have between entertainment and history. For many viewers, film is their only exposure to certain historical topics and even more so their only visual access to much of (pre-photography) history. The goal of this artwork is both to engage in a dialog on representation in a visual arts context as well as a historical context. I want to audience to have a reawakened sense of inquisitiveness about the truth of the historical representations they are experiencing while watching film and television.