Shown concurrently with Homonym (1996-2003) at Staley-Wise
From batting eyelashes to baring breasts, Jerry Schatzberg's two photographic series capture acts of self-definition. Behind the Scenes and Homonym, shot forty years apart, allow us to compare and contrast our views of femininity over time. Jerry Schatzberg's expressive vision springs from his theatrical sense of humor and tragedy, and his ability to find simple moments that unmask complex narratives. Through these two photographic series, we watch as Schatzberg grows from youth to maturity, moving from commercial assignments to experimental pictures, adapting his unique directorial style without losing sight of his primary artistic interest: human nature.
Thanks in part to Hollywood films, top fashion photographers became celebrities in real life. In 1962, Esquire decided to feature the dashing young photographers at work¾and what better place than Behind the Scenes of the French haute couture shows. Although he had never worked as a photojournalist, Schatzberg's fresh "street style" approach to fashion fit Esquire's requirements. He was hired and sent to Paris to cover 48 hours of grueling glamour.
Schatzberg followed three friends, photographers Helmut Newton, Norman Parkinson, and William Klein, documenting their late-night photo sessions for Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. Only a year before, Schatzberg had been hired by Vogue to do the same job, so he knew the process. For the first time, he opened himself up to the bigger picture, pointing his lens beyond the clothes to the models preparing, maids cleaning, and shuffling crowds. "My interest was not in the clothes, but the human behavior…" Schatzberg later explained his motivation. "I was not interested in the beautiful people. I was interested in the people with an assignment riddled with roadblocks and how they went about solving it."
Far from pampered, the couture models of the 1960's were not the managed, highly paid "Super Models" of today. These women "Behind the Scenes" were expected to do their own hair and makeup, style their own looks, and even bring their own shoes. Schatzberg's photographs catch their transformation from ordinary middle-class girls into manicured symbols of wealth and culture. Well versed in the tools of femininity, their heavily painted eyes and carefully draped bodies arouse mythic interpretations. Even in rest, their sprawled exhausted limbs form rhythmic designs. Intoxicating yet fragile, we can feel their efforts to please. The strained efforts to please extended to the photographers as well. Mixing empathy and irony, in Behind the Scenes, Schatzberg masterfully relates their moments of insecurity and creative challenge.