It is the month of Photography in Paris – NVU with Jeannette Montgomery Barron


Dear Shaded Viewers,

Earlier this month I was walking through the Outsider Art Fair and I ran into my old neighbours from back in the day when I lived in New York City, art curators Paul Laster and Renee Riccardo. They in turn introduced me to the photographer Jeannette Montgomery Barron. After I left the Art Fair of course the first thing I did was google Jeannette to see her photographs. In fact I knew some of them as I’m sure you do too, I just had not put the photographer and the subject together yet. Here is a short interview with Jeannette who I also discovered is a fellow Libra. Happy Belated Birthday Jeannette.
DP: I read that your mirrors are like portraits, how does your approach differ when you have a person in front of you to when you set up a still life? Do they both give you equal satisfaction, I guess that is a rather stupid sounding question but if we say they are both portraits…
JMB: The Mirror photographs are self portraits, a reflection of my mood that day. I’ve been taking these since 1991, the first taken after a close friend had died of AIDS. The approach to taking these Mirror photographs is quite different from taking a normal portrait which involves a lot of logistical and mental preparation. I still get nervous before every portrait sitting even though I have been doing this for years—I guess it keeps me on my toes… 
DP: Considering you started taking photos in the1980’s your photographs rose to success rather rapidly with publishing your first book in 1989, how did you first enter the art world and who was your first subject?
JMB: My first art world subject was Francesco Clemente. I was introduced to him by the gallerist Samia Saouma and my brother, Monty Montgomery. Francesco introduced me to other artists and it sort of snowballed from there. Then I met Bruno Bischofberger and he commissioned me to photograph many artists including Basquiat and then Basquiat and Warhol together. Bruno showed my work in his Zürich gallery in 1985 then published a book of my portraits in 1989. 
DP: How did your work relationship begin with the poet Jorie Graham, how did your relationship with her begin?
JMB: I was assigned to photograph Jorie by The New Yorker, to accompany a profile they were doing on her in 1996. I flew out out to Iowa City and Jorie and I spent the afternoon photographing and talking together then ended up having dinner. I had brought along a box of my still life photographs in case there was an opportunity to show them to her. She had a look and asked to keep them for a while. After a few days she called and said, “Let’s do a book together”. Scalo published it in 1997. 
DP: The book My Mother’s Clothes, that must have been very difficult to do, did the images spark any memories for her or she was to taken with Alzheimer’s. Something about that idea made me think of Louise Bourgeois. I saw an exhibition called Haunted House at the Prada Foundation where there were articles of clothes and I know she also, in other exhibitions traced her family life and struggles through articles of clothes.
JMB: My Mother’s Clothes was a very therapeutic and gratifying project for me. Here’s the story behind it: My mother was a real dresser and had closets of clothes she cherished and “visited” daily, especially in her later years.  YSL, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Mary McFadden, Chester Weinberg, Chanel; you name it, she had it. When she had to move out of her home to an Alzheimer’s care facility, I was worried that she would miss her clothes. So I started photographing them, made some prints and put them in a little book which I brought to my mother. An amazing thing happened: as she looked at the photographs she started remembering where she had worn one dress, where she had danced in another.  So I decided to make a book. Thanks to the encouragement of my husband, I also wrote to accompany the photographs. My Mother’s Clothes is a portrait of my mother, really a love letter. 
DP: What is it about Italy and Rome in particular that you are drawn too?
JMB: Everything. The light, the language, the smells, the food, the way people talk with their handsthe way they dress, they way they don’t dress.
(By the way, André Aciman and I are doing a book on Rome, due out in October 2020 ( Ivory Press)
DP: I’m sure this is impossible , but  do you have a favorite image from all times?
JMB: Of mine? No, I don’t think so. 
DP: Which artists inspired you when you were starting out?
JMB: Mark RothkoLartigue, Penn, Avedon, Weston, Arbus, BeatonHujar, Sugimoto, Mapplethorpe
DP: Who inspires you the most right now?
JMB: My children, Isabelle and Benjamin.
DP: Can you send me the  images below  and can you talk about your relationship with your subjects and the scene at that time in NYC. We must have crossed paths in those days as we probably frequented the same places.
JMB: I really was a fly on the wall back in those days. I went to parties at Area, The Palladium, The Mudd Club etc. but I also pretty much stuck to myself a lot. 
I hung out with Bianca Jagger but mostly in the daytime; lunch, the gym, a bit of shopping together.
And yes, I am sure you and I must have crossed paths back then!
Jeannette is currently preparing the catalogue to go along with her upcoming exhibition at the Patrick Parrish Gallery NYC on March 5th.
Patrick Parrish 50 Lispenard Street New York, NY T 212 219 9244 Read our blog 50 Lispenard Street New York, NY
T 212 219 9244
Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.