JANET FRIES Book Signing

Janet Fries, Bill Irwin, American actor, clown, and comedian, in San Francisco, California, in August 1980.

Please join us on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, for a book signing with photographer, Janet Fries.

Contemporary society sees itself in the pictures of those gaining and retaining fame. Images of the famous and the infamous shape the way we see the past. Winston Churchill's often-attributed quote, "The victors write history," is no longer entirely true. The power of the famous is now measured in the frequency with which we see their image, regardless of whether their actions were good, evil, or banal. Photography and all its tributary mediums, for better or worse, are part of how we illustrate the stories we tell and represent the kind of people we wish to be or want to avoid. We did not step into the current dynamic between image and power unconsciously. Media fame has been building and evolving for centuries, but there has never been such an intrusive and instrumental use of photographic portraiture to sustain power as that which we experience today. 

Janet Fries' photographic portraits, shot on assignment for printed magazine publications between 1973 and 1991, were part of a swelling information wave just before the flood of shared cell phone photos, blog postings, text messages, influencers, and social media stills and reels of today's world. The nostalgic sensation of viewing the once fabulous and notorious captured by Fries kindles a fondness for the humanity of those pictured. Their visages are the content from a time before content would be entirely overwhelmed by the new speed and energy of today's frenzied media. 

Many of Fries' subjects have passed on; some are still alive. Collectively, they hold a place in time, as they are of an era before the peculiarities of the current information landscape. They possess personality, regardless of their accomplishments. Together, Fries' portraits give us insight into how we defined a particular period and raise questions about how the current portrayal of the famous has changed us.

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This event coincides with the exhibition, FRANZ JANTZEN, on view at HEMPHILL through June 29, 2024.