Chances are whatever arts-related outings that were scheduled for this month are off the table, but photographer Stephen Frailey and artist Shantell Martin aren’t about to let canceled plans dampen their respective book launches.
Frailey’s new book “Looking at Photography” opens windows to the work of Tim Walker, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton, Nick Knight, Alex Prager, Collier Schorr, Juergen Teller, Deborah Turbeville and others. His skill set includes curator, editor and educator (he chaired photography for 20 years at the School of Visual Arts until 2018). His new time borrows from the concept presented in 1973 by John Szarkowski in “Looking At Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art.” Frailey picks up where the MoMA’s former director of photography left off by examining images from the early Eighties on. Each of the 100 photos is accompanied with insights about the photographers. Readers will learn how Knight, for example, “has emboldened the medium to champion complex photographic technology and forays into digital sculpture, holography and virtual reality.” Frailey chose the 100 based on what he had perceived as their influence in the classroom over a 30-year stretch.
Asked how these days of self-quarantine may influence fashion photographers, Frailey said, “Fashion photography is a mirror of culture, the best work reflecting the immediacy of the present and intuiting the near future, so the utterly apocalyptic changes now will have a significant effect. The physical and emotional isolation that we now share, our solitude, will influence the genre’s psychological narrative in a way that is authentic, not mannered. Our fragility and vulnerability will be translated into fraught photographs. Fashion photography will not shed its elegance and style, but foreboding and fear will become a leitmotif. Fashion photography will have an expressionistic urgency; it will not feel frivolous.”
Acknowledging how the pandemic has “profoundly adjusted our priorities, and the importance of our friendships and family,” Frailey hopes that the simple decency and generosity that has surfaced will prevail. “The collaborative nature of the fashion photograph will benefit with a renewed sense of camaraderie and gratitude and responsibility,” he said.
While his book signings and celebrations have been nixed in New York, the author has made some signed copies available via Dear Dave, the photography magazine he founded that he is editor in chief of.
Martin planned to do a drawing performance and Q&A with artist Amy Sherald on Thursday at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In lieu of that, she will host a virtual conversation Thursday afternoon to celebrate the launch of her book, “Lines,” that is being released by Heni Publishing. Guests will include Heni’s Sylvia Ugga, and photographers Theodore Coulombe, Connie Tsang and Catalina Kulczar. For the online event, Martin will be supporting local bookstores by offering pre-orders of signed copies of her book through them.