84 years in the game and not a second wasted. Renowned photographer Rose Hartman was thrust into the world of celebrity, fashion, and art and as a result has given us backstage access to unfiltered glamour. Entering what was a male dominated profession at the time, Hartman’s breakthroughs rest on an arsenal of things, but her biggest weapon was herself. An artist of few words, but photos of many, here’s a glimpse of Hartman’s new exhibition Femme Fatale at TW Fine Art in Palm Beach featuring never seen before works as well as portraits from Warhol to Basquiat. The exhibition is open until 12th February.
Rose Hartman, thank you for taking the time to speak to METAL! You are not a person who can be defined or captured in a few words, nonetheless, what are a few things people should know about you, newcomers and old friends?
If you can conjure up an image of Andy Warhol and co. partying at Studio 54 in your head right now, there’s a good chance that it was taken by me.
What made you get you into photography and what pushed you to do so differently in a male dominated and decided industry?
It was a very tough business, but I think you can feel this: I’m a pretty tough person. So, we could be chatting, and I’d be really enjoying myself chatting with you, but suddenly I see Bianca kissing Mick? Well, I’m not going to talk to you. I’m gonna run over to where they are kissing, take the photograph, and then go back to the conversation.
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From reading about your career, you got thrown into the life of celebrity and shooting, what made you stay?
I went to all the fashion shows, and I loved being there. It was very exciting for me.
You're known for the “shot seen around the world” (quoted in the New York Times) of Bianca Jagger at the club Studio 54. When you started going to Studio 54 you were also a high school English teacher by day, did you feel like you were living a double life?
Very much so, but it was far more exciting.
Your upcoming exhibit with TW Fine Art is titled Femme Fatale. The phrase itself transcends art and literature and holds a lot of weight in the visual arts – why this title for your exhibit?
When I snapped the shutter, the subjects that attracted me were “Femme Fatales”—especially the models.
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If we can hone into the work in your exhibit, you capture celebrities such as Grace Jones, Jean Michel Basquiat, Bethann Hardison and Andy Warhol candidly yet their glamour seeps through the pages. How much is skill, chance, or your presence because it is truly incomparable?
All I’m trying to say is, I never know what’s going to happen.
The way you present your subject feels antithetical to our digital-ages obsession with perfection, or curated perfection. Do you feel you’ve seen the world of photography change around you, or is it quintessentially still the same?
It’s a whole different world. And they’re standing in front of these posters that say “buy this” or something. So I stopped doing it. I’m the kind of person who wants to be on her own.
The shots and portraits that made your Femme Fatale series are not rigidly uniformed in colour, angle, or context. What is the creative process between shooting and exhibiting?
I worked with TY Cooperman, the gallerist and director of TW Fine Art to choose a wide range of images,Ty installed the show in a way to highlight each image and place.
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In your documentary film The Incomparable Rose Hartman you said you don’t ever want a posed face. Can you explain what happens to a person, subject or model in those seconds between being caught candid and posing for a photo, what is gained and what is lost?
I never wanted anyone just standing and posing - that would make me revolted. I wanted to be so in the moment that I’d only have a chance to take a few shots - or sometimes, even just one.
You have spent over 40 years in photography world and business how have you maintained both longevity and quality, is there a formula?
I know what I’m doing, and I will just do it. I’m not hanging around waiting, for example, for an embarrassing moment. I’m waiting for something that would reveal the person, would show them probably at their best. I would never want to embarrass the subjects.
1976 is when you entered photography. Alongside your Femme Fatale exhibit TW Fine Art is also Cherchez La Femme, the first all-woman group exhibition that aims to reclaim and present the modern woman’s experiences. In lieu of this I’d love to know what do you hope to have birthed or leave behind for future (female) photographers?
Legacy of a time that will never be duplicated.
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