LONDON (Reuters) - Filmmaker and painter Julian Schnabel has ventured into the realm of photography in his latest exhibition, “Polaroids: Beyond Infinity and Grandview.”
The London display of a few dozen photographs, personally chosen by Schnabel from his collection of several hundred, is being shown at the Colnaghi gallery in Old Bond Street.
“I didn’t intend to show these pictures at all,” said Schnabel. “I’ve just been working on collecting them over the past eight years. They’re more satisfying to me than normal photographs, where you are so detached from the subject.”
The collection centers around Schnabel’s world — many of the pictures are of the interior of his New York home, the extravagant Palazzo Chupi which he designed and decorated.
“I think it shows a painter’s life,” he added. “If one wanted to see what Julian made, or what paintings he would hang in a room, you could see. I’m not just photographing something I passed by. This building didn’t exist until I built it.”
There are celebrities on show, notably a portrait of singer Lou Reed with his eyes closed and several of actor Mickey Rourke, intimately captured in sepia tones.
Schnabel’s family also features heavily, with numerous shots of the two sons from his latest marriage, Cy and Olmo.
One captures the naked torso of Olmo set off-center against a background of blood-red flowers, with a scar of white light flashing across the print, the result of a technical flaw.
“They are without any kind of mediation,” said 58-year-old Schnabel, whose acclaimed 2007 movie “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” won four Oscar nominations.
“They are not re-touched or made to be more perfect, they are simply the way they come out in life. As a painter, I love the unexpected accident. I lean toward that accident all the time.”
The large-format polaroids are taken on a giant dolly-mounted 20 x 24 inch camera, one of only six in the world.
To a painter, the mechanism of photography poses difficult questions about the role of the creator and the extent to which ownership can be claimed for the image created.
“The process is so obvious,” he explained, gesturing toward the prints. “You take the camera, you point it somewhere, and you get what you get. I treat it like a found object.
“I’m not satisfied with the way the image is without the paint. Here I’ve painted a purple triple helix on top. The added circle means beyond infinity, I’ve been using the symbol since the seventies.”
The London Evening Standard’s Sue Steward praised the photograph collection as “wonderfully edgy.”
Editing by Steve Addison