Social Portraits 

Mathieu Gallois, 2017

Since 1996, Gallois has explored the idea of social portraits. These mainly photographic works position themselves as antithetical to individual portraiture, and the associated ideologies, values and social structures of individualism. Gallois’ social portraits further the overarching themes of his practice: social alienation and displacement, and their antithesis: community and belonging.

Gallois’ first social portrait, The Sociology of Bees was created for his honors graduation exhibition in 1996. The work consisted of two sets of scales positioned side-by-side. The smaller of the scales was placed on a plinth, upon which rested a high precision scientific digital scale capable of registering minute weights. Placed on top of this scale was a live beehive housed within a see-thru acrylic container, which was connected to the world outside the gallery. With the coming and going of each bee, the weight of the hive varied. Viewers of the work were encouraged to weigh themselves on the larger human digital scales adjacent to the beehive, and contemplate the role and ‘weight’ of the individual in society.

Flight 934b (2000) consists of over 400, C-type photographic portraits taken on transcontinental Boeing 747 flight. For more information, view Blair French and Ben Curnow’s excellent essays, ‘Aircraft Body / Social Body’ and ‘Placelessness’.

Mass (2003) consists of 1/4 million passport and identification portraits.

Photo booth (2003) is a complementary photograph / artwork to Mass.

Social body (2004) is a satirical take on individualism and for good measure, something of a spoof on theoretical art discourse.


28/08/2017 (2017) consists of 120 C type photographs. The work documents hundreds of passengers occupying spaces to sleep and rest within a ship’s corridors, stairs and deck. Beyond the work’s date, the subject’s status, their place of origin and their destination is left ambiguous.

Gallois’ social portraits contain many themes and possible interpretations. These include the role if the individual in society, globalization, displacement and migration; the private/public social dynamics of families and individuals in the public domain; D.I.Y. informal ‘architecture’ and the ‘aesthetics’ and ‘design’ of budget transportation, as seen across intersecting groups and cultures.