Collier Schorr — In Front of the Camera
Words by Ben Perdue
New York artist Collier Schorr only photographs women, even when it’s a man in front of her camera.
No one captures women like Collier Schorr. The New York artist-turned-photographer is preoccupied with identity, and it shows. This obsession drives both her art practice and commercial work, which neatly explains why the shift from viewing her pictures in magazines to galleries feels so seamless. It’s an exciting idea in itself, but nothing new for Schorr. So what takes her exhibition, In Front of the Camera, at London’s Modern Art gallery to another level is seeing the artist not just existing alongside, but being inspired by her fashion photographer alter-ego.
Growing up in 70s New York, Schorr would tear pages out of magazines and organise them into groups on her bedroom wall – girls she liked, clothes she wanted and people she wished she could be. It’s an introduction to cut and paste that gives the collages in In Front of the Camera some context, rooting them in the imagination of a 14-yr-old creating mood boards of women she loves. The only difference here being that the pictures torn out and reused were taken by Schorr herself.
Selected from recent work – including her iconic book, 8 Women – the exhibition groups collages and portraits together. The way each image interacts with the next forming an almost emotional connection between their subjects. “They look at one another with longing or they look at themselves,” says Schorr in the show’s accompanying statement. “And when I put them next to each other they seem like a tribe.” There are boys too, in keeping with the importance of gender in Schorr’s work. The familiar fluid borders between masculine and feminine bringing to mind the famous quote she once made about shooting women, but sometimes using men to do it.
Near a portrait taken in Paris of Savages front woman Jehnny Beth sits a self-portrait of the artist herself, an outtake from a shoot for Fantastic Man magazine. Strangely, it’s the most commercial photograph in the show. She even admits to it being retouched. And that’s important, because while Schorr is focused on the self, that doesn’t mean her women have to appear utterly real, herself included. It’s less about being raw, more about giving consent to be photographed at all – a unique dialogue between artist and subject, on set or in private.
“We can tell you a million stories and lies about pictures, about how smart they are, how radical they are, how unique they are, how old-fashioned they are,” says Schorr. “But really how about this: These are the pictures I want you to be around. Like a deck with thousands of cards, this is the hand I’m playing. It includes people, mainly artists, some who have come to my studio with little purpose other than to be in a picture, granting permission to be seen and inscribed into an ongoing collection of photographs.”
Ben Perdue is a fashion and culture writer and editor based in London. He has contributed to publications including AnOther Man, SSENSE, 032c, Arena Homme+ and GQ Style. @benperdue
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