Forgive the incomplete sentences. Gene Richards... ICP (International Center for Photography)...big show...drove down to NYC yesterday to see it with friend John Rizzo... met up with former student Jon Sneden
and Penland studio assistant Mercedes Jelinek (I profiled her remarkable work here) We talked for a bit, catching up as I hadn't seen these two for a while and Mercedes had just returned from teaching in Italy for a semester. Then we went in to see the show... which completely stopped any conversation we might have.
Gene Richards, several rooms laid out in rough projects not always chronologically....shot on film, strong and inky blacks, not always sharp(as if it mattered) but amazing short slices of time caught with something like instinct and intuition,
some poignant and crushing, this of his first wife Dorothea dying of cancer with his hand holding hers...
pictures so charged and powerful... so essential, stripped away of everything...
as time went on and we were looking at photographs from the 80's in this large somewhat retrospective show you could see Richard's approach changing, his pictures containing more and becoming more complex, while looking over his shoulder at Robert Frank, the clear precedent
where he even paid Frank homage in this of Robert and his son Pablo
and then to some of patients at a mental hospital in Paraguay with a river of urine on the floor of the ward reflected in the window light or this one of Dorothea laughing, a breast removed in the fight to continue to live, back and forth from projects for Magnum or on assignment to personal pictures made on a relentless drive to show, to peel back, to get down to the essentials of the human condition
using photography as the language to give us these gifts. Sobering really, how humans treat humans. War veterans returning home with parts of their bodies missing, shrapnel still inside them. One whole room in the show of color pictures, more peaceful and serene, looking like relief for the hard hard black and white work, not consummate work in color, nor need it be, but clearly there to share his need to take a break with us. A simply amazing show and an honor to be seeing these images he made.
Eugene Richards at International Center for Photography, Manhattan, through January 19, 2019.