From Supermodels to Strangers on a Street, Kurt Markus Photographs a Range of Human Experience

Jun 17, 2016 8:29PM

In addition to candid shots of the American West and the streets of Havana and Paris, fashion photographer Kurt Markus has shot supermodel greats like Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington for an assortment of top-tier glossies. At Verve Gallery in Santa Fe, much of his fruitful career is on display in “The Fashion Years 1987–2014,” a retrospective of his various photographic pursuits.

The power of Markus’ work comes from an outsider perspective and what he describes as an ambivalent attitude toward the fashion industry. “At heart and in practice,” he has said, “I’m small town, far from the centers of this crazy, wonderful, self-important, stupefying, challenging, enthralling, very weird and embraceable industry.”

Markus often treats body forms like landscapes, with keen attention to light and shadow. He has photographed many landscapes—most famously in the American West—with the same dramatic contrast of tones and romanticized vision he applies to his human subjects.

“What I’ve embraced from my mentors, both dead and alive”—Bruce Weber, Irvin Penn, and Robert Doisneau among them—“is their belief that photography can take you to places outside yourself, that photography intensifies living, seeing.”

There appears to be a range of connections between Markus and his subjects. Sometimes it’s intimate, and a quiet moment of repose reveals flashes of vulnerability. Other times, the photographer is further—physically and, it would seem, psychologically—and a distanced look suggests several narratives without telling a specific story.

“At times,” Markus has said, “I am saddened that I am not what I photograph. Always the observer, seldom the participant, what I am made of remains unanswered.”

—Anna Furman

Kurt Markus: The Fashion Years 1987–2014” is on view at Verve Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jun. 17–Aug. 27, 2016.

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