Friday, September 25, 2009
by Sam Haskins
September 19-October 24, 2009
Milk Gallery 450 West 15th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 645-2797 http://www.milkstudios.com/
10 AM-6 PM
There's a fun new photography show up at Milk Studios on West 15th Street. Check it out. It's a retrospective, of sorts, encompassing several decades of fashion photography, shot by South African-born photographer Sam Haskins, who now lives in Australia.
Sadly, Haskins suffered a mild stroke just nine days before yesterday's show opening, but is convalescing at Saint Vincent's Hospital and expected to recover, says his publicist.
Show sponsor Tommy Hilfiger has long been a patron of Haskins, and the designer says Haskins's style inspired him early on, with its clean precision and lighthearted energy. Nudity and eroticism abound in the show, which is a riot, considering the show is called Fashion Etcetera.
It's mostly a celebration of beauty, nature and life. If one is hard-pressed to find any actual fashion depicted in this show, its absence doesn't seem to matter to Haskins. In an interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, Haskins recounted his early disillusionment with the fashion industry after a magazine editor showed up at one of his shoots to test the models' body weight. Disgusted, Haskins turned his back on fashion, and went on to focus on commercial work and fine art. The fashion world eventually came back around, and Haskins went on to build an impressive, four-decade body of work. With the recent re-discovery of his iconic style book, "Cowboy Kate", his work is reaching new audiences, and the demand for his work has never been greater.
Aside from the simple celebration of beauty, Haskins's main aesthetic concern seems to be the issue craftsmanship. Bold, black and white images arrest the eye with their precision and clarity, while Haskins's masterful use of light inspires awe in anyone who has tried their hand at serious photography. Nature is a big theme as well, with nearly-nude models traversing rocky desert terrain or steep mountain paths . In one enigmatic piece, a nude woman seems to simultaneously emerge from, and sink into, shadowy depths, a 'Silver Sixties' Ophelia, her eyes closed in what seem to be the throes of ecstasy,
Technically, the show's not really a retrospective. Many of the iconic images, which you'll recognize from the '60s, have been juxtaposed in new diptychs and triptychs, offsetting formally related images discovered by the photographer years later. Most notable, though, is his striking, black-and-white "Cowboy Kate" series, where a young, aristocratic-looking model dons a black cowboy hat and points an antique pistol skyward, while flirting with the camera.
If Haskins's work doesn't have the puzzling and sometimes disturbing edge found in most of today's fashion photography, that seems intentional, and Haskins is fine with it. He's notorious for saying once that a dumb model won't photograph well. If straightforward girlie glamour from the sixties is your bag, this show's for you!