Tag Archives: Bruno J. Navarro

‘Acts of Charity’ captures how the other half gives

'Acts of Charity' by Mark Peterson
‘Acts of Charity’ by Mark Peterson

Book: ‘Acts of Charity‘ by Mark Peterson (introduction by Philip Weiss), powerHouse books, 160 pages, hardcover

By BRUNO J. NAVARRO | Editor

A subtle sense of irony and a knack for telling detail allows Mark Peterson to illustrate in “Acts of Charity” the concept of noblesse oblige and the idea that it takes money to make money as they co-exist in the high-powered world of upscale giving. Set amid the playground of the rich and famous, Peterson’s photographs provide a peek at how the other half gives.

At times, Peterson appears as if he moves invisibly among the well-heeled celebrity donors, depicting them in various natural, if awkward states. One image shows us a blazer-clad, khaki-wearing man hoisting a woman in tennis whites over his shoulder while walking beside a line of luxury automobiles.

Another photo features a taxidermied red fox with a top hat jauntily perched on its head as it stands upon a banquet table — uncharitably, perhaps, for the small mammal. (One hopes it wasn’t from the same humane society benefit event shown on a previous page.)

Other times, Peterson manages to zero in on a delicate ballet of gliteratti, awash in limelight and draped in couture, all for the benefit of those less fortunate than they. Absurd, theatrical and telling, the photographs exist as social commentary.

'Acts of Charity' by Mark Peterson
‘Acts of Charity’ by Mark Peterson

What makes all this fascinating, of course, likely has something to do with the novelty of seeing upper-crust society scarfing down cocktail weiners, horsing around irrespective of who may be watching and fulfilling one’s voyeuristic tendencies within the parameters of charitable giving.

There are plenty of celebrities here — from rapper and hip-hop producer Jay-Z to uberfashionista Vogue editor Anna Wintour, from onetime talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell to heiress and socialite Brooke Astor — but this isn’t quite a paparazzi book. It’s more of a social study.

An anthropology professor of mine at Queens College used to revel in telling students how he ran against the grain of his peers, choosing to study the lifestyles of the ultra-rich instead of primitive cultures, ensconced in a remote rainforest. “They had the best booze, the best parties,” he would say.

Here, at long last, it’s clear to see what he was talking about.

An American perspective of a simpler time abroad

"New York City, 1963," by Joel Meyerowitz
“New York City, 1963,” by Joel Meyerowitz

Exhibit: ‘Work from the Sixties’ by Joel Meyerowitz at Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery, 120 Eleventh Ave., Second Floor, New York — through 22 Jan. 2005

By BRUNO J. NAVARRO | Editor

NEW YORK (Fotophile.com) — Youthful exuberance and a healthy degree of innocence infuse much ofJoel Meyerowitz‘s “Work from the Sixties,” an exhibit highlighting the B&W and color photography from the perspective of an American in his 20s traveling through Europe.

Armed with two Leica bodies and 700 rolls of film, Meyerowitz in 1966 embarked on the romantic journey of a lifetime that would take him to the British Isles and across the continent, followed by Morocco and Turkey.

In the process, Meyerowitz documented the gradual awakening of a world view. His sense of wonder becomes ours, as he captures the hectic pace of Parisian streets full of fire-breathers and pedestrian mishaps to misty strolls along hills in Wales and everyday life lived in Spanish towns — undoubtedly a simpler era, a less encumbered psyche.

Much the way Henri Cartier-Bresson found the “decisive moment” in his street photography, Meyerowitz captures transient moments in images from the car taken in Chartres, France, and in Greece: an airplane in the distance frozen above a narrow ribbon of pavement and a couple speeding along on a motorcycle.

Meyerowitz also displays a sharp visual wit in such works as “Musee du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1967” and “Paris, 1967.” In both photographs, a real-life scene interacts or mirrors a picture on the wall, creating a connection in which different spaces and times co-exist.

'Work from the Sixties' by Joel Meyerowitz
‘Work from the Sixties’ by Joel Meyerowitz

Born 1938 in New York, Meyerowitz brought to much of his European work an openness toward his subjects. He did so while, keeping an a similar freshness for the scenes that unfolded in Manhattan, as in “New York City, 1963,” in which a young man in a classic American car leans out the window, a small flag fluttering at his side.

Remarkable for its loose, natural sense of composition and nostalgia without clichéd sentimentality, the photographs in Meyerowitz’s “Work from the Sixties” remind us what the world used to look like and provide a sense of who we are, here and abroad — lessons that might serve us well today.

Pin-up grrrls craft version of new, stylized sexuality

'Suicide Girls' puts the pin-up portrayals of women in the hands of some strong women.
‘Suicide Girls’ puts the pin-up portrayals of women in the hands of some strong women.

Book: ‘SuicideGirls‘ by Missy Suicide, Feral House, 156 pages, hardcover

By BRUNO J. NAVARRO | Editor

Imagine the girls your mother warned you about — then picture them resplendent with tattoos, piercings and enough attitude to make most matriarchs swoon with repressed jealousy.

'SuicideGirls' by Missy Suicide, editor
‘SuicideGirls’ by Missy Suicide, editor

That’s the world Missy Suicide has created in “SuicideGirls,” the book version of the wildly successful and wicked website featuring the indie sexuality of alt-divas.

Katie, a 20-year-old Los Angeles office manager, sports a full-color tattoo of Jack Nicholson’s character from “The Shining.” Lux, 22, a Portland, Ore., performance artist, sports ink of twin snakes intertwining up her torso.

This is what Playboy might look like if Courtney Love were editor-in-chief.

Each photograph and self-portrait depicts a stylized, in-your-face approach to sexuality and self, and it’s evident that none of these girls care what you might think of them: They’re doing it as part of a process of expression and making up their own rules in the process.

“These girls, I thought, could be the new Pin-Up girls, each with their own ferociously unique style and outlook,” writes photography editor Missy Suicide of the post-punk scene at Portland’s Pioneer Square that gave rise to the concept that ideals of femininity and beauty are now as divergent and independent as the women themselves.

Her impetus became the driving force behild the pin-up grrrl site, SuicideGirls.com, the 2-year-old site that has nearly doubled its membership since the book’s publication in September 2004.

Part of the book’s charm comes from its straightforward and unvarnished photographic approach. There’s no fancy studio lighting, no diffusers or star filters to create that 1970s porn feel — in fact, while several of the images would certainly earn an R-rating for a Hollywood film, few of them are blantantly prurient.

Refreshingly absent from the collection of images in “SuicideGirls” are also many of the now-trite poses commonly found in gentlemen’s magazines. But then, the book isn’t exactly geared toward gents, anyway.

Taylor-Wood takes threefold, theatrical views of transience

Lawrence Fishburne by Sam Taylor-Wood
Lawrence Fishburne by Sam Taylor-Wood

Exhibit: ‘Sorrow, Suspension, Ascension’ by Sam Taylor-Wood atMatthew Marks Gallery, 523 W. 24th St., New York — through 30 Oct. 2004

By BRUNO J. NAVARRO | Editor

'Hayden Christensen' (2003) by Sam Taylor-Wood, Courtsey of Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

NEW YORK (Fotophile.com) — “Sorrow, Suspension, Ascension,” Sam Taylor-Wood‘s third solo show at Matthew Marks Gallery, brings her evolved sense of theatrics to the forefront with striking imagery that makes passing allusions to the transience of life, mourning and, ultimately, hope.

Among the first set of images the viewer encounters, from her “Crying Men” series of 28 Hollywood portraits, a few stand out.

Most notably, the photograph of Laurence Fishburne depicts the actor, tears streaming down his cheeks, wearing a wooly overcoat and blurry bathroom fixtures in the earth-toned background. A circular window behind his head provides hagiographic illumination.

Robert Downey Jr. appears in classic, Christlike repose, nude except for a sheet providing a modicum of modesty. He gazes heavenward and tears fall.

The perfectly coiffed and hyper-stylish Jude Law withdraws into a corner, nearly into a fetal position, suffering, one imagines, from an ethereal injury. Robin Williams sits on a stoop, on the verge of a tearful burst; Ben Stiller attempts to cover his face while seated in a car.

Benicio del ToroMichael Madsen and Woody Harrelson are among the others who weep for Taylor-Wood, and the result is ultimately aesthetically pleasing.

Yes, there’s a staged quality to it all, and none of it is quite convincing. But this isn’t journalism and yet it’s perhaps no less artificial than any of the manipulated images we’re accustomed to seeing. They are undoubtedly theatrical portraits of actors in front of cameras — in other words, plying their trade. But there’s something humanizing and empathetic, slightly unsettling and universal about it all.

“Suspension,” the second part, involves self-portraits of the London-born artist suspended mid-air in an industrial, white space. The logistics were carried out by bondage expert Master Rope Knot, the ropes later removed digitally, giving the images a mysterious quality. In eight large-scale photographs, Taylor-Wood twists, arches, reaches and succumbs to an unseen force, as if in the midst of rapture, a vague ecstasy — dark blonde hair, dirty feet and all.

Sam Taylor-Wood
Sam Taylor-Wood

The images are decidedly less decadent and baroque than some of her previous work, suggesting a more straightforward approach by Taylor-Wood, who survived a bout with cancer.

Lastly, her new film, “Ascension,” comprises a man with a white dove on his head, bobbing up and down as the man tap dances over the supine body of another man, who is perhaps dead, all against a black backdrop. Each man is oblivious of the other. The effect suggests a vague joy, a triumph of spirit and mordant absurdity that eases, or perhaps cleanses, the viewer’s visual field: The unknown lies beyond that which one sees. Do we care?

The largely successful collaboration of the three works represents maturity in Taylor-Wood’s work, while still incorporating it with the penchant for theatrics she indulges. A departure from her more elaborate, directorially obvious and prop-laden work of the past, “Sorrow, Suspension, Ascension” only appears more simple on its surface while flirting with unspoken questions we may all be more comfortable not asking.