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Press Release

Vintage Photographs

October 21, 2004 through December 4, 2004
Opening Reception, Thursday, October 21, 7 - 9 p.m.

The Fahey/Klein Gallery is pleased to present for the first time, a rarely seen exhibition of forty vintage photographs by renowned and celebrated photographer Lisette Model. A pioneer of her time, her photographs reflect an era when photographers used the world as their stage. She had an enthusiasm for her surroundings and human behavior, whether it was the mundane world or the rich and fashionable, she found them to be worthy of attention. "Shoot from the gut!" were the famous words that Model lived by and would repeat to her students time and again. This exhibition will be images from Europe and the US ranging from the 1930's to 1950's.

The Viennese born Lisette Model was trained to become a classical musician. After moving to Paris in 1926, she abandoned all musical interests, and took to the visual arts, first studying painting before she picked up a camera. Model has said, "I just picked up a camera without any kind of ambition to be good or bad. And especially without any ambition to make a living… My whole freedom working in photography comes because I say to myself, 'let's see what is going on in this world. Let's find out. How do these people look?'"

During her years in Paris, Model made frequent visits to her family home in Nice, which led to her first series, "Promenade Des Anglais." With an ever-changing cast of characters, Model was able to create a visual epic, satirizing the elite, leisure class. The image of an affluent man lounging in a chair on the Promenade reflects the irony that Model was able to capture in this series. The man is dressed in his best, yet sits slumped in his chair with an undaunted gaze. He is like most of Model's subjects, immobile, yet watchful. About her choice in subjects, Model has said, "I select what I am attracted to, I don't hesitate, question [or] analyze."

Model and her husband moved to New York City in 1938. That same year she was hired as a staff photographer for Harper's Bazaar, and began to photograph not only the streets of the city, but also the nightlife. Her series, "Sammy's on the Bowery" was published and showed Model's work to have an energetic mood. The image of the "Singer," seems to bulge forward out of the print, and has a strong personality, which is characteristic of all of Model's subjects. However, Model did not position herself as closely to her subjects as the images suggest. The close-up effect was accomplished later in the darkroom by enlarging and cropping the negative. Model explains, "I have noticed that when I photograph people in close-ups, I always take away everything in the background as much as possible. So I have come to the conclusion that there are huge biological forms that attract me…"

Persuaded by her friend, Berenice Abbott, Model began teaching at the New School for Social Research in New York. Lisette abhorred imitation and strongly encouraged independence of expression in her students. It was there that Model wielded the most influence on up and coming photographers like Rosalind Solomon and Bruce Weber. But her most notable protégé was Diane Arbus. Model continued to take photographs and teach. Her photographs have been acquired by numerous museums, including Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Chicago Art Institute, and the Smithsonian Institution. She died in 1983, leaving behind a body of work that is passionate, and involved with her uncanny mixture of intelligence and intuition.