Feb 282011

Paris Frame Works

There is no central meeting

place for photography shows

in New York City.  The venues

range from furniture stores,

to pop up clothing boutiques,

and contemporary art galleries.

As a result, the show are always

a surprise and usually come

with a twist.

Seattle, Washington. 1955. The head cheerleader and the captain of the football team embrace after a game. The team had just won a game for the first time in three years.  © Burt Glinn

Burt Glinn: Ivy League To Magnum

The early members of Magnum Photo all share one thing in common.  Robert Capa was responsible for recruiting them.  With a cigarette dangling from his lips, he sweet talked young photographers into joining his mission, free from the reins of editors and magazines.  In the nineteen fifties Capa was the god of free lance photographers at Life Magazine.  Their New York offices buzzed with excitement when the famed war photographer was scheduled to make an appearance.

While Burt Glinn was a student working as a photographer for Harvard University’s paper “Crimson” he met Wilson Hicks, then photo editor at Life.  Initially he was offered a job as a researcher, but protested because no sensible photographer would agree to a life of paperwork over taking pictures.  Fortune must have been on Glinn’s side.  At the time, Life Magazine thought they needed a photographer from the Ivy League and did not care if he was any good.  Hicks hired Glinn right out of Harvard to work in Life’s New York offices.

One of his first assignments was to assist Capa on a shoot for Holiday Magazine.  They were hired to shoot socialites skiing and Glinn was supposed to advise Capa on the technical aspects of photographing in the snow.  The idea of advising Capa on anything seems like non-sense.  Those who live on giving advice rarely take any themselves.  During their first meeting and a lengthy explanation of the difficulties of an all white background Glinn realized Capa was not listening.  Once confronted Capa thought it would be better if they went for a drink instead.  This solidified their friendship and within a short time Glinn seduced into leaving Life and invited to Magnum Photo.  He was the first American member of Magnum

Elizabeth Taylor in Segaro, Spain on the set of "Suddenly Last Summer" 1959.  © Burt Glinn

The Money Camp

The history of Magnum photo is littered with one recurring argument.  Every member has their own opinion, and would hardly even agree on the wording of the argument.  But, no matter how it is said, Magnum Photographers have argued, petitioned and lobbied about the ethics of making money.  Shooting jobs for money has always been a problem.  The purists like Cartier-Bresson thought money had nothing to do with photography.  On one occasion he wished fellow photographer Elliot Erwitt did not shoot advertisements.  When Glinn reminded the senior Cartier-Bresson that Erwitt had a family, his response was, “That is not my problem.”  But without the commercial work of photographers like Erwitt, Glinn and Burk Uzzle Magnum Photo might have survived.

Brigitte Bardot and Sasha Distel in Saint-Tropez, France 1958.  © Burt Glinn

Beauties: Just Enough

Standing on the corner of 81st and Madison Avenue, searching for a gallery,  I could not find Paris Frame Works.  The reason I could not find it, is because there is no gallery called Paris Frame Works.  However there is a framing boutique with that name.  Maybe because Glinn is a Magnum Photographer that I envisioned his show being in a gallery, but it was inside of a boutique frame shop.

When I think about it, the whole pretense of a large gallery is not necessary for small photographs.  One of the perks of a show in a framing boutique are the pictures were wonderfully presented.  Each black and white image was set into deep museum matts and a combination of black, white, or machined lucite frames.  Instead of the front desk of a gallery, normally decorated with a snobby art student working for minimum wage, Marcela was helping a woman select matts for her images.  She was kind enough to answer a few questions about the show and explain these intriguing Lucite frames.

Instead of the show being titled “Beauties” it could have been “Easy Saturday.”  Absent from the show, are pictures normally associated with Magnum shows.  There were no starving children wandering through bombed out cities.  This selection of Glinn’s images are easy to digest.  What could be difficult with Brigitte Bardot in ripped jeans or Andy Warhol posing in a man hole with the leggy Edie Sedgwick propped on his shoulder?  Glinn produced more challenging images during his career, but this show is like a shot of espresso.  Quick and  punchy, it leaves you with a zippy feeling.

New York, New York. 1965. Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick and Chuck Wein.   © Burt Glinn

If you are on the upper east side visiting the Metropolitan or Whitney Museum take a detour down Madison Avenue.  Stop in Paris Frame Works for a little treat.  The work may not change your life, but sometimes we don’t need to be challenged.  Too often the “all in one” exhibitions feel like the high volume/average quality racks at Costco.  While the intention is good, there is only so much we can eat in a single sitting.  The rest of Glinn’s work is not slighted by this petit show, instead it leaves you wanting more. The show runs until April 15th.


Burt Glinn


Burt Glinn at Magnum Photo


Paris Frame Works

1069 Madison Avenue (@ 81st Street)

New York, NY 10028




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