ME: Photographic Self Portraits

17 September - 31 October 2015
Press release

This is a warning about “selfies”…


Not only can they bring down the powerful, caught in scandalous intrigue—Anthony Weiner, for one—but there are a number of stories about people who, in effect, fell off the cliff. The original self-lover, Narcissus, was so enthralled by his reflection in the water that he drew too close and drowned. There are also contemporary narcissi, like Xenia Ignatyeva, the 17-year-old Russian girl who lost her balance and tumbled off the side of a railway bridge, and 21-year old Oscar Otero Aguilar, from Mexico, who tried to take a selfie of himself posing with a gun and, well, you can work it out.


Thank you, selfies, for the ongoing popularity of Justin Bieber. Kim Kardashian’s book “Selfish” is on The New York Times best-seller list, 448 pages, and most of them with no words!


Perhaps hazard warnings should be attached to iPhones.


Making and sending pictures of your lunch, your outfits and giant body parts: your boobs or package all plumped up… The world has gone mad; it’s the moral apocalypse. At least we will have the photographic evidence.


Blame the Australians. Google tells us that the first use of “selfie” as a word came from down under a dozen years ago in an Internet forum. Further back, in 1839, we can credit Robert Cornelius for making a daguerreotype of himself, this was apparently one of the first images of any person, let alone a self-portrait. The process, for Mr. Cornelius, was so slow he could uncover the lens, run around to get into the picture and then go back to close it. Nowadays he could probably post it simultaneously.


In many respects, the original selfies were the amazing Photomatics: spontaneous photo booth snapshots in individual metal frames, especially popular between the World Wars. A remarkable collection of 144 of these works will be presented in ME. Photomatics originated from a contraption invented by Anatol Josepho (born Josephewitz in Siberia), who opened the “Photomaton” Studio on Broadway and 51st Street in 1925. “Within 20 years there were more than 30,000 booths in the United States alone, due largely to World War II soldiers exchanging photos with their loved ones,” writes Mark Bloch in From Behind the Curtain: A History of the Photobooth.


In addition to the anonymous quirk of the Photomatics collection, ME, opening at Ricco/Maresca Gallery on September 17, 2015, will present a series of contemporary and vintage photographic self-portraits—many of which predate the selfie—by artists across the spectrum: from canonical names such as Pierre Dubreuil, Constantin Brâncuși, Edward Steichen, André Kertész, Berenice Abbott, Weegee, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Francesca Woodman, and “outsider” Vivian Maier, to contemporary photographers such as Marianna Rothen and Eva Petrič, to new emerging artists Sara Salaway and 12-year old Kaia Miller (who will be offering an intriguing take on tweens today and their trend-setting potential through social media), both making their gallery debuts.


© W.M. Hunt, 2015.

ME SHOW ARTISTS: Vito Acconci | Buzz Aldrin | Weegee (Arthur Fellig) | Elinor Carucci | Berenice Abbott | Claude Cahun | Pierre Dureuil | Vivian Maier | Shoji Ueda | Edward Steichen | Constantin Brâncuși | Francesca Woodman | Imogen Cunningham | Keith Smith | Rosalind Solomon | Ryan Weideman | André Kertész | John Coplans | Bastienne Schmidt | Madeline Kennedy | Eva Petrič | Allen Ginsberg | Sara Salaway | Kaia Miller | Gerald Slota | Photomatics

Installation Views