Real People: Anton Yelchin’s “Provocative Beauty” Exhibition in New York City text by Valerie McPhail


Anton Yelchin, publicly known for his roles in Charlie Bartlett, Like Crazy and a vignette in New York I Love You, was also a photographer. With this talent he leaves his legacy. Chelsea’s De Buck Gallery, a space just under the High line honors the life and work of Yelchin by showcasing 54 images and donating fifty percent of the show’s sales to the Anton Yelchin Foundation, an organization that aids artists challenged in their career by debilitating disease or disability. The exhibition showing through January 20th includes images released in the Los Angeles exhibition the artist was preparing before his unexpected death, in addition to never before seen images.


This story of Anton begins with love: a quintessential romance scene of a young woman resting on a man as they kiss at sunset. Images that follow include portraits of Americana men, women gleaming among blushed pink, purple and icy blue lights and neon signs advertising motels and protests “Save on Meat.” These photos lead the exhibit into moments lived behind closed doors.


A series of naked women exposed in leather face masks and singularly pictured with relaxed yet confident stares into his camera. We learn about him through the lens of the people he photographed. In response, such questions flood my mind – who are these subjects, where was he hanging out and where were those selfies sent?


All questions for understanding who he was were kindly received by co-curators Clayton Calvert and Rachel Vancelette. Calvert attributed Yelchin to his artistic spirit: “ [a goal to be] known as a photographer and not as a actor who dabbled in photography.” They provided context to his art, selfie photos sent to his mother Irene Yelchin from various environments such as film sets. Vanceletette speaks on behalf of those who knew the artist that lived with “generosity of spirit, [and] took time with people.” His portraiture work reveals a connection to those who may be naturally overlooked or mistaken. They were not neglected by Yelchin’s eye.


Valerie McPhail

Valerie McPhail is a New York-based writer on things of style and artistic expression. She has a portfolio of writing for both fashion and art publications. Although she enjoys covering fashion news and supporting new designers, her favorite subject to explore is the experience of fashion and how life is communicated through clothing. She believes there is a lot to be said about this.