I know that fashion photographers often have to hold back on their own creativity to please clients. And we rarely get to see them realize their fullest strengths and potential — therefore embracing their truest selves with a sense of unconditional safety. It’s a beautiful thing that photographer David Seidner did for brands like Yves Saint Laurent and international editions of Vogue. His presence is felt in the work of photographers like Aline Smithson. And more importantly, his work is something that must be experienced in person. In fact, it’s the saving grace of the 2024 Winter Exhibitions for the International Center of Photography in NYC.
Many who’ve read this site are aware that I’ve had many issues with ICP. We can start by talking about the poor quality museum glass they use — which creates tons of reflections even at fair viewing distances. Let alone, there’s their lack of adherence to their mission around “concerned photography.” ICP is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year by displaying an exorbitant amount of photographs from its archives — complete with reflections and ill-advised use of its space. Transparently, the archives break my heart in a manner similar to how you’d feel if you found a close family member was involved in murder. Tucked away in the corner of the 2nd floor and seamlessly blending into the 50th-anniversary exhibit at one point is the work of fashion photographer David Seidner.
I’m in Love With Portraits by David Seidner
If the entire two floors were dedicated to just his archives, I would make weekly visits to sit, shut off mobile notifications, meditate, pay money, and become inspired by David’s phenomenal work. I’m sure that with each visit, I’d find something new to ponder to expand my creative brain.
Several photographers that we’ve interviewed on this website are inspired by paintings. We can see that in the work of Christy Lee Rogers and Mariska Karto just to name two. But when you actually look at David’s work, you’d think you were looking at a hyperrealistic painting. This is partially because of his printing process — which he was very much involved in and considered to be a part of the whole creative process. Here’s a quote from ICP’s description:
“Seidner made these portraits using platinum printing, a process invented in the late nineteenth century in which the image is absorbed into the paper rather than suspended in the emulsion that coats its surface, as with gelatin silver printing. Moreover, he opted for a textured and uncoated paper, to which he hand-applied the emulsion, leaving the brushstrokes visible at the edges of the image. Seidner thereby emphasized the handmade quality of the photographs. This devotion to making is also evident in the books and maquettes for the series (on view nearby), which he diligently preserved in his personal archive.”International Center of Photography
This is art. It’s inspired by the past and translated through a photographer who channeled adoration of the scene in front of them with equal amounts of respect for the artists who have long passed. And it shines through in every step of the process into the final print — very much so in the same way that Michelin Star chefs use only the finest ingredients.
You Should Check it Out
There’s a lot to love here: photographs with beautiful colors that look like paintings due to the film stock, bleached prints, reflections that force you to stare at the photographs and wonder how the shot was achieved, fine details that are sharp and uncaring of MTF charts, and creativity that isn’t seen very often anymore. David Seidner passed a few years before social media took off. And considering the work that he’s done, I’m sure that he’d feel great sadness at the monotony that algorithms play with silencing the artistic self.
Best of all, there are far fewer reflections on David Seidner’s work — and I hope that his ghost visited the gallery and gently guided the setup crew to ensure this.
David Seidner: Fragments is on display at the International Center of Photography until May 6th 2024. I strongly recommend that you go check it out to understand and appreciate true fashion photography art.