Patti Smith: Camera Solo
Following the release of her celebrated memoir Just Kids in 2010, Patti Smith has rebounded as America’s punk-rock idol. The memoir tells the story of the friendship between the artist herself and the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe from the early seventies until his death in 1989. Smith can once again be found on staff recommended and bestseller shelves in bookstores throughout New York City with her latest published work entitled Camera Solo. Camera Solo is a small art book that contains 70 of Smith’s black and white polaroids released by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art after Smith’s exhibition in 2011. For the most part, the photographs are simple still-lives, taken in intimate settings far from the manic punk scene; they document Smith’s home, her travels, and her closest acquaintances. There is nothing inherently remarkable about the photographs in Camera Solo, but paired alongside her music, poetry, and memoir, these images expose just another side of Patti Smith that we might not have otherwise known.
-Gabriela June Tully Claymore
Read More About the Book and Exhibition Here:
"Mary Ellen Mark Photographed My Senior Prom"
Whether or not you went, your senior prom was undoubtedly a big deal. Even at my too-cool arts high school, senior prom was planned and discussed months in advance. Finding a date was always dramatic; with girls drawing up mental pro/con lists of any boy they would consider and couples spent hundreds of dollars on limos, dresses, and hotel rooms. A bad prom is not just another unfortunate high school memory; it is a night that American society will always remind you of. If you went, the senior prom was either tragic or blissful, and if you stayed home to prove a point, you will always wonder what the night would have been like.
Mary Ellen Mark’s latest photography series Prom documents this euphoric night in thirteen high schools throughout the United States. Mark’s images mimic the traditional format of prom photographs: couples stand together against a backdrop looking either ecstatically happy or absolutely miserable. In contrast with the garishly tacky color prom photos, Mark’s are shot strictly in black and white using a massive 20x24 Polaroid Land Camera. The images have a slightly washed-out and ghostly aesthetic typical of Mark’s past work. Mark has typically photographed people living on the fringes of society, and it is obvious in Prom that she is most drawn to couples that appear out of place either within their surroundings or with one another. These haunting portraits are contrasted with lively, often joyous interviews shot and compiled by the filmmaker Martin Bell (Mark’s husband). In the film, couples and individuals divulge their hopes for the nights, dreams for the future, and feverish anticipation to leave high school.
The Prom photographs are oftentimes uncomfortable to look at, yet there is something familiar about the adolescent awkwardness made obvious by an unforgiving camera. Ironically, the photographs make me sad that I did not take a tacky, posed photo in front of a background covered in airbrushed twinkling stars the night of my senior prom. Whether or not you had a good night, that camera freezes time in its place, making the event appear momentarily blissful. These photographs change the way we remember the night, and Mark’s photographs remind us why, despite its obvious unimportance in the course of a lifetime, the senior prom will always be a big deal.
-Gabriela June Tully Claymore
Mary Ellen Mark’s Prom Trailer: