Christy Turlington, Mirabella Magazine, San Francisco, CA, by Kurt Markus
Verve Gallery is displaying a sartorial sort of exhibition with old west flair, starring the work of cowboy portraitist Kurt Markus.
When the fashion editors discovered the West, they went looking for a genuine Western cowboy photographer, someone who knew the heart and practice of small-town cowboy life, “cowboy culture,” on vast cattle ranches–someone who was a true cowboy chronicler and well connected. Kurt Markus was their man. For 35 years he had photographed the buckaroos of Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and California; the cowpunchers of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona; and the cowboys of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Canada. Irrespective of the different captions these wranglers wore there was one common thread, according to Kurt: “They [these chaps] ride in the company of like-minded souls.”
While Kurt has enjoyed many lives as a photographer, his cowboy years were among his earliest. What makes his work so unique is that he photographed cowhands not as an outsider, not as a dude, but as one of them. Kurt hobbled, bridled and saddled his own horse, and rode the prairie lands with them. He camped and bunked on the range. He gathered, culled, roped, medicated, castrated, branded and earmarked calves, heifers, steers and bulls. He had his meals at the cookhouse or chuck wagon alongside them–biscuits and gravy for breakfast; spam, biscuits with corn inside, pickles and “a cake from headquarters” for lunch; and cast-iron-skillet hash, chili and beans for supper. He slept outdoors with “nothing but me and the stars.” He stared into open campfires; he learned to drink, smoke, laugh and bullshit. Together they weathered sleet and snow, rain and lightning, and sweltering heat. He became one of them and they bonded.
Kurt is one of the most distinguished portrait and fashion photographers in the last quarter century. The New York Timesdescribes his work as “arresting black-and-white photos from a master fashion photographer.” His work has appeared, for the most part, in every major fashion magazine and more.
His portraiture is the very essence of excellence in refined craftsmanship; his images are known for their grace and wit and absolute mastery of the quality and character of light. The portraits are spartan, image qua image. They are without distracting elements and distinguish themselves with sober, unadorned clarity. There is no mistaking the object photographed. The composition is straightforward. The shapes are robust, sturdy, lusty and spirited. Each promotes economy in concentration from the viewer. The negative space is truly void, whereas the light is delicate and accenting, revealing and complimenting his subjects. The deep and soft shadows are ideally placed.
The exhibit will be on display until August 27th. Also being featured is the work of young and ambitious Susannah Benjamin.
Susannah Benjamin was born in New York City in 1993. She has a passion for storytelling and mythology. Her photography is intimately tied to the literary medium. Each of Susannah’s images requires meticulous storyboarding, location scouting, casting, and styling. Her aims are to create pieces that are aesthetically engaging and also narratively and conceptually evocative. The artist views her models as characters from larger stories, each with their own history and fictional identity. These characters occupy worlds in which social and physical isolation, metamorphosis, and magic are common, if not expected, occurrences. Benjamin’s use of winged women, bewitched girls, and shape shifting youths allow her to marry the escapist realms of fantasy and myth to topical issues such as bullying, depression, and negative self-image.
Benjamin has been recognized for her photography from a very early age. After winning first place in Digital Camera Magazine’s international “Young Photographer of the Year” competition at age 14, she went on to win the grand prize in the 2013 Irish Times’ photography competition, selected from over 8,000 entries worldwide. She was also one of six artists to win PDN’s “The Curator” competition, which aims to highlight the best emerging fine art photographers.
Susannah firmly believes that artists should approach their work from a cross-disciplinary perspective. Thus, Benjamin pursued a liberal arts education; she is a recent graduate of Yale University with a degree in English and French Literature.
For More Information: Verve Gallery