Dazed Digital

Rome / Italiano

AltaRomAltaModa 2012: Wayne Maser

January 27, 2012

An inspiring monographic exhibition traces the 30 years of work from the American cult photographer at this year's festival

  • Text by Tommaso Fagioli

The Capitoline Fashion Week is a unique opportunity to plunge into the world of historical Italian fashion houses and international creative realities. As usual, there are many side-events from the catwalks that deserve attention. To inaugurate this tenth winter edition, we’d like to point out a nice monographic exhibition “Wayne Maser – Disposable” curated by Susi Billingsley and Cecile Leroy-Beaulieu under the patronage of AltaRoma.

Wayne Maser is an old-fashion photographer who never liked to be under the spotlights but he’s well-known around the world for having photographed the faces of the most important people in the last 30 years. If you think of an image of Johnny Depp, Rob Lowe, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Clint Eastwood, Brigitte Nielsen, Whitney Houston, Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Taylor and Mikhail Baryshnikov, probably you are imagining one of Maser’s shots. Master of the portrait, he worked for major fashion houses and its black and white images have made over the years the birth of a new aesthetic language in balance between Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton, inspiring many of the greatest fashion photographers in the last decade. On a visit to Rome, we interviewed him in an exclusive for Satellite Voices.

Satellite Voices: Where did the idea for this monographic exhibition come from?
Wayne Maser:
I do not usually do photo shows and the idea was born a little by accident. Some time ago, I was bringing my daughter’s pictures to print and I found an old contact sheet of mine so I also printed out a photo from the negative. I became intrigued to dredge up my past and I started thinking about my history. From then on, this is how the whole project came about but, I must say, without the valuable work of Susi and Cecile, it would have never have been possible.

SV: Why Rome?
Wayne Maser:
I find Rome very welcoming and full of surprises, a place where you can lose yourself and even hide. It is a refined city but with a strong popular component, much less intrusive and glamorous than other capitals. In a way, it reminds me of the Lower East Side in New York and Los Angeles. Let's say a mix between the two. I lived here in the past, I stayed in Piazza Vittorio in the Esquiline quarter, a place that I love very much. It’s been a while since my last visit and I sense an air of novelty around, some sober optimism that perhaps preludes to a change.

SV: You have never held an archive or catalogued your work, and many negatives have been lost. Why?
Wayne Maser:
A lot of people is surprised about this but I do not care. I’m not a sentimental person, and perhaps “disposable” is the only project in which I have made myself available to a touch of sentimentality. You'll see why. I have always had an approach guided from the fascination for the ephemeral and transitory nature of things, despite having actually used the photograph as a mean of expression which naturally aim to preserve for good the subject it portrays.

SV: What relationship do you have with the term "disposable"?
Wayen Maser
: Initially we wanted to call it “Fragments”. We liked the idea of reconstructing an archive, of rebuilding the story of my work since I have never held a catalogue. But then we thought of “Disposable” because, while maintaining the idea of summary, it also expresses the philosophy of my approach to work. I didn’t fancy a merely self-celebrating thing, I really wanted it to be a show for the people where people could bring something home. And in butcher's paper, with which you hastily wrap any kind of object that symbolises the idea of transit, the transience of time, the brevity of moments and emotions, the volatility of the stories.

SV: The great photographer Raymond K. Metzker was one of your teacher at the Philadelphia College of Art. What have you learned from him?
Wayne Maser
: The idea of creating a language through pictures, the opportunity to create real visual sentences. The exploration of the formal potential of the black and white.

SV: In fact, even his photos are very narrative, as if they were fragments of stories. There is a writer who likes most?
Wayne Maser:
Well, being American, I am obliged to say Hemingway! There’s a nice phrase by that I cannot quote correctly but basically it’s a about a sort of retroactive nostalgia that activates in certain places that you know you have to leave. A feeling that I often had in my stay in Africa.

SV: What is your relationship with nudity, a frequent subject in your photos?
Wayne Maser:
I would say very free and spontaneous. The pure nude is a timeless subject very different from the more or less dressed bodies in fashion, which are exhibited  with a different syntax. Those once are somehow old from the very moment you shot them. For a photographer it is more difficult to photograph a nude, because it is a subject with a very polyvalent meaning and you never know how people will judge it.

"Wayne Maser - Disposable" - at Vitellara 56, Saturday 28 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm 

Largo Giovanni Battista Marzi 10, Roma (Entrance Ponte Testaccio)

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