Jessica Craig-martin in High Society

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Jessica Craig-Martin, Untitled

I discovered Jessica Craig martin when I was interviewing for an assistant position at the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery.  In an effort to acquaint myself with their artists and past exhibitions in a quick Cram session, I slowed down at Jessica’s blown-out, tongue-in-cheek celebre-real snap shots. Her photos shine light on the darker underbelly of the rich and famous in a flurry of unflattering angles and tawny skin. Her style is a combination of the Richard Billingham’strashy starkness (she is british too!) and traditional celebrity/ party photographers who try their best to make events look glamorous and their subjects untouchable.

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After doing a little more research, I found out that she had an exhibit at P.S 1 in Fall 2001 that was curated by Klaus Biesenbach and Alanna Heiss. Here is an excerpt from the Press Release:

"Craig-Martin’s work reveals the gap between the set-up shots printed in "society pages" and the reality behind the camera. As a photographer for American Vogue and Vanity Fair, she has access to a rarefied world that, as seen through her lens, is perhaps as full of folly and bad manners as a high school cafeteria.

While closely observing the lives of VIPs has become a favorite national pastime and voyeurism almost an obsession, these images juxtapose familiarity with suspicious ambiguity. Unlike traditional event photographers, Craig-Martin uses her camera surreptitiously, breaking down myths of wealth and beauty that propel fashion photography and sustain the beauty industry.”

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Jessica’s photography exposes the less glamorous side of celebrity, cellulite, bunions, the chubby veined fingers of old women. People become less beautiful through her lens, and their other qualities are hyperbolized. People look self-fish and needlessly extravagant. The harsh light of the flash brings out the blemishes and drunken red-tones in their skin. The members of high society are brought down to a more pedestrian level, and appear like clumsy animals rather than the gods and goddesses we are used to seeing at premieres. Her work no doubt, is a cheap thrill, she captures unflattering seconds, and moments that were not meant to be under scrutiny. She uses her ins in the fashion world to exploit those who live in the public domain. Its not high-brow, her work is full of gimmickry that creates peaces that are as intoxicating to look at as the subjects in her photos. With no redeeming qualities in her work, the viewer has no choice but to become the guilty voyeur. Craig-Martin seduces us into her dark world and before we know it we are hooked to the debauchery and stop looking for a way out. We want more lechery, our appetite becomes ravenous for scandal, and we look to perpetuate the deconstruction of Fame. 

The ‘ha-ha’ here is that the belly of her work was made in a time before blogging.