A favorite image from the past week is that of an intrepid feathered creature astonishingly perched atop the head of a white-tailed deer, taken in San José Villanueva, El Salvador.
Nature, perfectly composed.
The eyes certainly have it in this striking trifecta of composition, timing, and evocativeness that garnered an honorable mention in the “People” category at the 2017 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year awards, announced last week. Taken at a railway station in Bangladesh, the photo is a mix of moodiness and mystery (what’s with the umbrella sticking out the open window?) punctuated by the penetrating gaze of the rider next door. The photographer, who titled his image “The Man’s Stare,” succinctly summed up his achievement with the comment, “I got the moment.” Which is what all great photographers do.
PHOTO: MOIN AHMED
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s retrospective of the unparalleled work of the American photographer Irving Penn (1917-2009), on the centennial of his birth, is an opportunity to marvel again at the creative genius of a true legend of the arts – one who left his indelible mark in portraits, still lifes, and most famously, his fashion photography for Vogue, where he began his career in the 1940s. The magazine provided fertile ground for his artistic labors, which also included stunning food-oriented essays that graced many an issue or two. The culinary portfolios captured Penn’s singular intuition for the unexpected, coupled with whimsical touches that tripped lightly on the eye. (Don’t miss “The Big Cheese”!) Penn once said, “Photographing a cake can be art” – and to that we can add some delectable ice cream, and a few perfectly placed fruits and vegetables, as well.
Irving Penn: Centennial is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through July 30.
In the finding-wonderful-art-in-unexpected-places department, I ran across the work of a French photographer, Christopher Hibbert, as a backdrop image from Google Open Gallery on my streaming device one evening. It sparked my curiosity enough to search for more of his pieces, two of which are shown here. A spectral blend of soft whimsy and technical prowess, the “light paintings” as they’re called, harbor a lingering quality, bringing a dash of the preternatural to settings that would ordinarily be typical, if lovely, landscapes. A process in which exposures are created, usually at night, by manipulating light sources or by the movement of the camera, the end result transcends technique; or, as the artist says, “Light is life.”
Photos: ©2016 Christopher Hibbert
One of the most celebrated stars in the photography firmament, Cindy Sherman is back with her first series of images in five years – and she’s playing a few old-time Hollywood “stars” herself.
In an exhibit of 16 life-sized color portraits that opened May 5 at the Metro Pictures gallery in New York City, Sherman (who, as her followers know, utilizes her own lights and cameras, as well as costumes and make-up), conjures the ghosts of such cinematic legends as Swanson and Garbo in later years. “I relate so much to these women,” she told the New York Times in April. “They look like they’ve been through a lot, and they’re survivors. And you can see some of the pain in there, but they’re looking forward and moving on.”
Sherman, whose works have commanded as much as $6 million at auction, shot to fame in the early 1980s with her now legendary Untitled Film Stills, a set of 69 black-and-white photographs, one of which is shown left, depicting herself as an imaginary actress in a series of cliché moments that symbolized notions of homogenized femininity. Iconoclastic and trailblazing, the Film Stills launched a career that in a way comes full circle with the Stills now on view in New York.
In other words, the fresh-faced ingénue has morphed into middle-age amidst a culture obsessed with youth. Sherman, now 62, also told the Times that, “I, as an older woman, am struggling with the idea of being an older woman.” She says that the new photos are “the most sincere things that I’ve done — that aren’t full of irony, or caricature, or cartooniness — since the Film Stills.”
Next month, the new Broad Museum in Los Angeles will launch its first special exhibition with a lifetime retrospective of Sherman’s work, which the artist has perfectly titled Imitation of Life. The name comes from a 1959 Technicolor melodrama by director Douglas Sirk, whom Sherman has cited as an influence. It’s said that the wardrobe for the movie’s star, another Hollywood glam queen, Lana Turner, cost in the neighborhood of a million dollars at the time.
Something any one of Sherman’s memorable leading ladies would definitely appreciate.