New York Photo Review
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Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Soho Photo Gallery
Central Booking Magazine

OMG!
Jeff Mermelstein
Work Oeuvre Opera
Lipstick, Dior, Paris by Jeff Mermelstein. Source: rickwesterfineart.com
Jeff Mermelstein, "Lipstick, Dior, Paris"

Jeff Mermelstein is a much-admired street photographer who won an assignment from New York magazine this past fall to cover the fashion shows in New York, Paris, and Milan for the magazine’s Spring Fashion Issue. Many, if not all of the 13 images in this modest exhibition, appeared in the magazine less than three months ago as an editorial spread. However, most don’t bear much resemblance to the quirky, off beat work that Mermelstein fans have come to expect.

Blame it on the subject, not the photographer. If you’re confined to shooting fairly predictable runway shows, the street photographer’s eye for the unusual can only take you so far. He was after all, working on assignment, unlike his normal mode of shooting which doesn’t limit him to a particular theme. Here his focus was on fashion–-not the clothes so much but on the people and culture surrounding the glamour and stress of the runway shows in the world’s fashion capitals. The only variable is the people behind the scenes or those preparing to get on the stage—that’s where Mermelstein managed to score a few hits.

Secret, Louis Vuitton, Paris by Jeff Mermelstein. Source: rickwesterfineart.com
Jeff Mermelstein, "Secret, Louis Vuitton, Paris" 2010

What caught my attention were two images of hands—“Backstage, Alexander Wang, NYC” and “Lipstick, Dior, Paris.” In “Backstage,” the photographer shows us a close-up of the blunt ends of the model’s fingertips instead of the exquisitely painted fingernails you’d expect. Where’s the style, where’s the glamour? In “Lipstick,” we see a hand applying lipstick with the model’s eyes looking away. It must be the make-up artist’s hand since the color doesn’t match the model’s face. The best of the hand images in which Mermelstein’s flash captured the geometry of the moment is the one entitled “Back, Prabal, NYC.” We see the model’s back; her blond hair extension covers her neck with a pair of hands resting on her shoulders. He also took several other pictures of hair including the back of Grace Coddington’s head and one of a pile of hair extensions. I found none of these particularly compelling.

My favorite image in this exhibition is entitled “Secret, Louis Vuitton, Paris.” It’s a picture of what appears to be an elaborately coiffed transgender model (the neck and hands appear masculine) whispering in a man’s ear with his hand resting on the model’s shoulder. Mermelstein captured an intimate moment and you wonder what it’s about.

“Work Oeuvre Opera” is a different take for Jeff Mermelstein; his views of the fashion world may be of interest to some but I was hoping or expecting something else. It is what it is.

Jeff Mermelstein
Work Oeuvre Opera


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Thursday, May 5 to
Saturday, June 25, 2011
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The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino
Making Caribbean Dance by Susanna Sloat
Central Booking Magazine
Soho Photo Gallery