New York in Miami

For Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, the old photography ways are still best

But an impressive contingent of the rich and famous kept traipsing in to sit for his long exposures, especially New York artists, and they kept coming even after he added the large-format 20x24 Polaroid camera and an occasional strobe to his bag of tricks.


Grain-sniffing photographic purists and photographic consumers who have grown fond of the easy and tired perfection of modern studio lighting techniques have been known to grouse that the tonalities in Tim's prints vary in consistency, and that's true enough. While some of his black-and-white images are textbook examples of perfect prints, with every pore and detail resting neatly on the long curve of the gray scale (resulting in the kind of photographic clarity that can only be attained by contact prints made from huge negatives), others contain patches of pale skin and faded sweaters that are overexposed and paper-white -- like uneven antique photographs.

Portrait of Lou Reed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Portrait of Lou Reed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Details

A major exhibition of the Miami native's photographs runs through October 17; 305-375-3000.
The Miami Art Museum, 101 W Flagler St

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In photography's early days, a sitting often consisted of a single exposure made onto a hand-coated glass plate in constantly shifting available light. In those days exposure length was determined by intuition and experience rather than a light meter, and those old exposures were guesstimates that had a human hand on the trigger. Tim's portraits contain similar irregularities and strengths. While this makes for interesting shoptalk, it's really a nonissue. His body of work is about a bigger picture.

Tim's portraits of artists, musicians, actors, and other movers and shakers of the last half of the Twentieth Century allow us to look directly into the eyes of many of the people who defined American culture in those years. Plenty of those famous faces spent time in, or had strong connections to, the Lower East Side, so in some ways Tim's early collection is a portrait of the neighborhood. Staring into those faces makes it easier to remember what we liked and disliked about those years.

And in shooting celebrities, Tim has become one, at least to the art crowd, and to every high-end art director whose budget is big enough to afford his services. It's a great bunch of shots, and the show is worth an hour of almost anyone's time, even if you didn't live on the block.

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