Patti Smith. Camera Solo
Yale University Press, New Haven & Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Harford, 2012
This captivating selection of 70 intimate black and white photographs conveys Patti Smith’s singular experience as a photographer as it relates to many facets of her fascinating life and career. Exquisitely designed and produced, Patti Smith: Camera Solo accompanies the first museum exhibition of the artist’s photography in the United States.
Using either a vintage Land 100 or a Land 250 Polaroid camera, Smith photographs subjects inspired by her connections to poetry and literature as well as pictures that honor the personal effects of those she admires or loves. In the catalogue’s interview, conducted by Susan Lubowsky Talbott, the artist talks about her “respect for the inanimate object” as well as the talismanic qualities of things in her life. We see, for instance, a picture of Mapplethorpe’s slippers or a porcelain cup that belonged to her father, and are drawn into their intimacy and quiet power. Moreover, these images reveal how the camera has proven to be a means for Smith to retreat—undisturbed—to “a room of my own.”
From her explorations as a visual artist in the 1960s and 70s and her profound influence on the nascent punk rock scene in the late 1970s and 80s, to Just Kids, her National Book Award-winning memoir of life with her beloved friend Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith continues to make an indelible mark on the American cultural landscape.