Michael Somoroff: A Moment.
Master Photographers, Sol Mednick Gallery of Photography, UArts
Written and photographed by Laura Storck
As a photography student at The University of the Arts, I make every effort to take advantage of the wonderful rotating exhibits on display Sol Mednick Gallery of Photography on the 15th floor. I was especially motivated to see the current exhibit by ‘Michael Somoroff: A Moment. Master Photographers‘ which includes several gorgeous platinum prints of well-known luminaries such as Elliott Erwitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Frances McLaughlin-Gill, Ben Somoroff, Ben Stern, and Arnold Newman.
According to The University of the Arts May 2015 news release of this exhibit:
Between 1977 and 1983, Michael Somoroff, then a young New York photographer, had the privilege of photographing photographers who played a dominant role in shaping the medium during the climax of analog image making, including Robert Doisneau, Elliott Erwitt, Ralph Gibson, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Duane Michals and Helmut Newton, among others. He was first introduced to many of these icons through his father, Ben Somoroff, who studied under Alexey Brodovitch at the School of Industrial Arts in Philadelphia, now The University of the Arts, and had become a well-known and respected still life photographer working in both Philadelphia and New York. These portraits were originally created as a kind of visual journal, a tribute to the modern masters of the medium by a young photographer. Intensely personal, the images were never intended for publication and were put aside for many years. Thirty-five years later, this body of work is finally being shown and published.
Ben Somoroff, New York City, 1977, platinum print
Michael Somoroff studied art and photography at the New School for Social Research in New York, opening his own studio in the mid-seventies, eventually moving for a time to Europe. In Europe, he contributed to such publications as Life, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Stern, Time, and Der Spiegel. His work is represented in collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; and Museo Correr, Venice; it has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In 2006, Somoroff created a large-scale outdoor installation, “Illumination I” for the Rothko Chapel in Houston, as the first artist invited to do so since Barnett Newman. Somoroff’s homage to legendary photographer August Sander, “Absence of Subject,” was presented during the 2011 Venice Biennale, the only private exhibit in the artistic history of the city to be placed on Piazza San Marco. Since 2011, “Absence of Subject” has traveled continuously throughout Europe and soon in South America. In 2012, “A Moment. Master Photographers: Portraits” by Michael Somoroff was awarded Best Photo Books of the Year prize chosen by American Photo.
Upon viewing the beautiful platinum printed image of each master photographer, I felt inspiration, connection, and catharsis. The platinum print process is prized for its rich, long tonal range that includes lush blacks as well as delicate gray mid-tones and for its ability to show fine detail. Somoroff rendered his subject’s essence with the utmost expertise and transcendence. To pay personal homage to the images of these icons felt akin to a spiritual journey in a sacred space.
Mary Ellen Mark, New York City, 2011, platinum print, Michael Somoroff: A Moment, Sol Mednick Gallery of Photography, The University of the ArtsBen Stern, New York City, 1979, platinum print Michael Somoroff: A Moment, Sol Mednick Gallery of Photography, The University of the Arts
I felt especially moved when seeing Mary Ellen Mark’s portrait, and particularly saddened by her recent passing. I remember first learning about her work when visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art in September 2012 for her exhibition Prom: Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark. This exhibit occurred in conjunction with her husband’s work, cinematographer Martin Bell’s film Prom (2010), and I was very fortunate to witness a roundtable discussion among Mary Ellen Mark, Martin Bell, and the curator of photographs of the PMA, Peter Barberie. Mary Ellen Mark’s photography has been a major influence on my desire to capture documentary and street images, which has therefore inspired and helped me to feel more empathy, compassion, and responsiveness toward the human condition.
This experience forces me to ponder where my photographic path may lead…Will my portrait ever adorn a gallery wall? All I can offer with certainty is that I appreciate every little struggle and triumph along life’s serpentine journey; I cherish and find value in the many relationships I have formed; and I strive to keep going with continued optimism. Peach and love to all.
Now in it’s 37th year, the Sol Mednick Gallery of Photography offers a year-round regular schedule of exhibitions of contemporary photography. The only endowed gallery in Philadelphia dedicated solely to the exhibition of photography, the Mednick Gallery earned the Photo Review Award for service to photography. Associate Professor and former director of the Photography program Harris Fogel, who founded Gallery 1401 in 1999, has been director/curator of both galleries since 1997. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10:00am – 5:00pm., Saturday and Sunday by appointment. The exhibit is on display through July 31st.
Event page – http://www.uarts.edu/about/sol-mednick-gallery
website – www.uarts.edu
Like The University of the Arts on facebook
Written and photographed by Laura Storck except where noted
Like DoNArTNeWs Philadelphia Art News Blog on facebook
Follow the new DoNArTNeWs.com
Follow DoN on Twitter @DoNNieBeat58
DoNArTNeWs on Tumblr
@donniebeat on Instagram
Donate via safe and secure PayPal in the sidebar.