Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stephen Gill

I first saw Stephen Gill’s work at this year’s New York Photo Festival where a group of his black and white still lifes of folded toilet paper made an amusing point in the Kathy Ryan curated show, “Chisel”. But
it was a glimpse of three pictures from his “Russian Women Smokers” series on the blog I Heart Photographs that really caught my attention.

While he is not essentially a still life photographer, these pictures, simple studio shots of discarded lipstick-stained cigarette butts, are at once a reference to the famous Irving Penn photographs and a brilliant series in their own right – elegant, narrative, and redolent of another world and era. While they may not have been possible without the precedent of Penn’s insight, I like Gill’s pictures better.

A visit to Gill’s website shows a fertile mind and active lens, presenting 25 different (or related series) - from a group of prints buried in the earth (to see the effects of decomposition) to several series taken in Hackney, an area of London now undergoing Beijing-like redevelopment in anticipation of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

I particularly like the series “Hackney Flower Portraits” – pictures of people wearing different floral motifs. All these pictures were taken with a camera Gill bought for a dollar at the Hackney market!


Anonymous said...

the repetition of the colors (pink lipstick stains, brown tobacco, white paper, white background)were interesting in series, but i think each picture can stand on its own as well. I doubt you could even find this many butts in this good condition with this exact shade of lipstick around NYC. Perhaps it speaks to Russian conformity surviving even into their post-Communist era. But I found myself most interested in the cigarette brands. Thanks for the post!


Anonymous said...

Comment below was meant for this post. Thank you finding yet another great new photographer/body of work!

Ian France said...

The color of the lipstick against the cigarette matches perfectly with the background. I must say those are some of the most beautiful pictures of cigarettes I have ever seen.

glass1/2full said...


yes, his work at NYPH08 was thoroughly enjoyable(as was his talk). in fact, i went to the first day of events and ended up attending the entire 4 days! it was that interesting.

at the time i wondered why you made no mention of NYPH08 figuring you must not have attended. but you did! why no comments?