In the 1950's and 60's there was a popular daytime TV program called 'Queen for a Day.' The idea behind the show was to provide the opportunity for three women to present a needy and worthwhile cause to the studio audience. Their goal was to convince the audience of their personal crUnited Statesde and get them to respond favorably by bending the needle on the Clap-O-Meter. The contestants had to appeal to the audience's sense of morality, dignity, sympathy, and from time to time, creativity. In its truest sense 'Queen for a Day' was a combination of unbridled sentiment and pathological urgency. Each contestant had a vitally urgent story to tell and each contestant was overwhelmed by the desire to have their story recognized and appreciated. The number of contestants was endless and their stories equally personal.
Photographers have a similar sense of urgency to be recognized as unique within a medium that so easily attributes and often dismisses a way of working, choice of format, or selection of subject to a specific genre. The artist that can accept those restraints and follow their personal convictions are the artists who make exceptions, rather than follow rules. Mark Steinmetz, who was a visiting artist at Light Work from January 15-February 15, 1988, respects the rules that have canonized 'The Americans' et al., but recalls a sense of casual humor and benign pathos that allow his photographs to engage our whimsy and refresh our intellect. During his residency Steinmetz spent most of his time in the darkroom printing work from a four month visit to France that was supported by the Camargo Foundation. In addition to the new work from France, Steinmetz continued to work on Little League Baseball series that he initiated in 1986.
Steinmetz is a careful observer who proclaims an individual sensitivity and committed persuasion with his work. He acknowledges the risks involved in this personal approach to picture making and admits that many of his photographs from France ignore certain facets of French life in pursuit of more universal qualities of place and season. The two photographs reproduced here are so remarkable in their descriptions of private moments played out in public, that one feels a delightful intimacy and exchange of emotions with the subjects. Steinmetz is able to become an invisible observer, never forcing his presence on his subjects, allowing them to communicate private pleasures of contemplation in a clear and potent magic manner.
Jeffrey Hoone (c)1988