NEW YORK — An artistic collaboration between a glamorous fashion photographer like Mario Sorrenti and an underground filmmaker like Shannon Plumb, best known for her silent comedic shorts, might seem unlikely. But the two have been at it for the past nine years.
The partnership began with Plumb posing for the photographer, both for editorial shoots and au naturel. Then, in 1998, when a friend gave Plumb her first movie camera and she began shooting the first of her 76 short films, Sorrenti became a part of her work.
“Her film work is totally different from the nudes we did,” says Sorrenti. “The nudes are very sensual and sexual, much darker and sleek. Her work is more quirky and funny, and her movies are almost like what she’s like in real life — she’s so not from this world.”
The duo will show some of the pieces documenting their relationship — his film stills and nudes, as well as her film shorts — in “Chasing Its Tale,” a show opening Tuesday at the Sara Meltzer Gallery, which will be made up like Plumb’s bedroom for the occasion.
But the two say the gallery show in no way marks the end of their artistic entanglement. “We have so much work that we’ve done together. This is just a snippet,” says Sorrenti. “The day before the show opens, we’re going to photograph her in the gallery.”
“It’s going to be a lifelong relationship,” says Plumb. “It’s turning documentary.”
On the other hand, Plumb’s weird little films, which range in length from 50 seconds to almost 3 minutes, are hardly documentary. For each, she transforms herself into a new and unusual character, sets her camera rolling on a tripod and films herself acting out various clever comedic scenarios à la Buster Keaton. Plumb calls them “moving portraits.”
“I just watched a lot of movies and I wanted to be in them,” she says. “I studied acting, but I got discouraged. I wanted to figure out a way to be in the movies without waiting for someone to choose me.”
Films from Plumb’s series “Room Tone,” shot last winter in an icy Brooklyn basement, will be shown at the gallery alongside Sorrenti’s on-set Polaroids. The photographer is one of the few ever allowed on Plumb’s set, let alone into her strange world. “Nobody is around when I shoot my films. It’s private,” she says. “But Mario is somebody I really trust. He manages to pull out all the craziness in me.”