January 23, 2014
I have been in love with photography since I was 10 years old when I was given my very first camera on a trip to Europe with my family and came home with a suitcase full of film. The first photographer I ever fell in love with was William Wegman. His weimaraner’s, Man Ray and Fay Ray, hung on my childhood room’s walls and inspired many a dress up shoot of my own dog in funny outfits, thank god she was a good sport! As a teenager I became obsessed with the unsettling, but gorgeous street portraits of Diane Arbus. In college I was obsessed with the incredible dramatic compositions of the great fashion photographer Richard Avedon, and interned at his foundation while at school. I went to NYU to study photography and art history and while there was exposed to incredible photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe, Lewis Hine, Robert Capa, Gregory Crewdson and Nan Goldin, just to name a few favs! My own photography was dramatically changed by studying these masters, as well as by the old masters of painting who I studied while living in Paris just a few blocks away from the Louvre. Since graduating from school I jokingly say constantly how much I miss classes and the intellectual discourse that came with them. Yes, I was the dork who loved school and was incredibly passionate about what I was studying. I realized this year that what I miss most is the inspiration I got from being around these masters’ work. So my resolution this year was to rededicate myself to my love of the art of photography and visit a gallery or museum show once a month. A little less inspiration from Style Me Pretty and a little more from MOMA. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Style Me Pretty and will continue to read it weekly, but I’m also going to reconnect with my inner artist and take advantage of all the amazing art New York City has to offer! First up on my radar? Robert Mapplethorpe’s Saints and Sinners at the Sean Kelly Gallery.
Mapplethorpe will always hold a special place in my heart so he was the perfect artist to kick off this year’s quest. Just FYI for anyone not familiar with Mapplethorpe’s work it might be NSFW (depending on where you work). One of my first classes at NYU, during the 1st semester of my Freshman Year, was History of Photography with the former curator of ICP. Each student was assigned a photographer randomly to do a report on and one student presented the work to the class each week. I drew Mapplethorpe’s name out of a hat and only vaguely knowing his work skipped off home to start my research. Upon realizing what I would have to project on the screen behind me, I turned 50 shades of red, but got over it and dove into the deeper meaning behind his work. I became fascinated with the stark beauty of his nudes and the sensuality of his flowers as well as his documentation of gay culture in the late 70’s and early 80’s through stunning medium format portraiture. What really caught my attention though was the 1990 obscenity trial that questioned the 1st amendment and what are freedom to expression really entails. The gallery show at Sean Kelly celebrates the 25th anniversary of his death and the trial. He sadly died way too young of AIDS in 89, but left behind an incredible legacy. If you’re interested in learning more about the trial you can read more here. The battle for freedom of expression became a major theme in my studies and I managed to bring Mapplethorpe’s work into almost every class I took at NYU. Going back to his work now after not having seen it in 4 years I am still struck by his skill and the beauty of his portraiture. Looking at his work is so inspiring to me and was the perfect reset button going into my 2014 wedding and portrait season. Below are some of my favorite Mapplethorpe photographs. I chose not to include anything too graphic because I know many parents read this blog and may not appreciate this popping up on their screens while the kids are around, but I do encourage you to check out more of his work here.
All photographs in this post are Robert Mapplethorpe’s (not mine). Hope you enjoy them and they inspire you too! If you have any suggestions for future shows this year that I should go see please let me know! Want to be inspired too? I love company so please come along! Up next for February is Robert Capa at ICP!