Photography: As They Wanted to Be Seen

In Boston, a surprisingly revealing show of signed portraits

Photographer Edward Weston claimed that great portraits reveal "the very bones of life." He did not include, of course, workaday, signed publicity shots of notables (or hopefuls), the glossy eight-by-tens that decorate restaurants, offices and waiting rooms with ballpoint sincerity. Those bones are less signs of inner life than mementos of the cult of personality. What may be the country's first formal display of autographed pictures of famous folks is now on view at the venerable Boston Athenaeum in an exhibition titled "This Is...

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