“I SEE, I COLLECT, THEREFORE I AM”
Assouline produced one of the greatest books I have seen in ages, “Cecil Beaton: The Art of The Scrapbook” - a true object of beauty filled with content one can pour over for hours … and now The Museum of The City of New York will open an exhibition Oct. 25-Feb. 20 focusing on Cecil Beaton’s New York years along with a catalog which I’m sure will be superlatively informative and beautiful.
Why do I find Cecil Beaton so interesting? Not for his stunning photographic work alone, placing him on the list of the world’s most important photographers, but also for his understanding that the social circles he ran in, success, and persona he created were examples of the artifice of living theater. This spectacle, a brand that he had to create in order for him to get certain images and get them out there, is something I think we can all identify with…
His friend Truman Capote quoted him as calling it “self-creation” and mentioned it was something Beaton knew could never let up.
This is no way depreciates or diminishes Mr. Beaton’s talent which shone not only in the realization and frank understanding of this social condition, but also in his photos many of which one could say were created in part due to this.
Less interesting to me are those posh slick portraits of famous wives, royalty, and actresses, so graceful and perfect … a signature of his work, where the client was sliced and reworked until she reached a state of idealism that would bring her much joy and bring him much praise, acceptance, and further commissions.
Far more interesting for me, are his photos incorporating greater elements of reality in detail, glittering fantasy, and experimental lighting set design & composition.
Beaton, a somewhat outsider hell-bent on climbing to the top, achieved a typical outsider’s manner that indicated mutual affinity and loathing towards his subjects. Once accepted, celebrated and at the top of his game, beautiful photos kept flowing, and so did his cut-throat bitterness.
No one can ever take Beaton’s brilliance or talent away, a legacy to photographic excellency - however there another lesson to take away while looking at his life and work - the life story of the
Perhaps in, but always outside.
Beautiful & Ugly dancing together
A duality making Beaton’s work & life all the more ruminant & interesting.