Glamor and Excess, Under the Lens
Given her background as a press photographer for Vanity Fair, Vogue, and other publications, New York-based photographer Jessica Craig-Martin is granted access to an otherwise inaccessible world of socialites, models, actors, and other elite individuals. Piquing the viewer’s voyeuristic tendencies, Craig-Martin presents skillfully cropped and angled photographs of glittering individuals shot at various society parties, charity fundraisers, art exhibitions, and other invite-only soirees. In contrast to all of the champagne, glamorous gowns, sequins, silk, designer duds, and opulent baubles on the individuals that inhabit her work, Craig-Martin’s photographs present moments of flawed beauty and stark reality – a human vulnerability in the otherwise unapproachable privileged world. Her work is included in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the New Museum, the Progressive Corporation, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Favoring harsh realism over glitz and glamor, Jessica Craig-Martin subverts the tradition of the society photograph. Having worked for publications such as Vanity Fair and W, Martin is deeply entrenched in the world of high society parties. Her photographs begin as documents of these well-heeled events, but she crops out faces of partygoers, focusing on the minutiae they might rather remain unseen, such as sagging skin, wrinkle lines, or tans lines. Her detailed focus on blemishes and signifiers of wealth is coupled with high-contrast exposures that emphasize the superficiality of the glitterati in caustic color. Her work evokes the excess and abjection of Nan Goldin's photographs, styling the upper classes as absurd purveyors of artifice. “The camera is as cruel as the fashion and styling stunts it depicts are vain and ambitious,” wrote Glenn O’Brien of her work. “We see the socialite’s world as a House of Wax—a world so inhuman it attains the status of art.”
American, b. 1963, Hanover, New Hampshire, based in New York, New York