Sage Sohier: Witness to Beauty
For a brief period in her youth, my mother was a model photographed by Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, and once was on the cover of LIFE Magazine. As a child, I grew up as a witness to her beauty: I used to lie on her bed with the dogs, and watch her try on clothes and study herself critically in the mirror. As I grew older there was no use competing with her and so I assumed my position, quite happily, on the other side of the camera. – Sage Sohier
I’ve always been curious about the offspring of famous or beautiful people and how they navigate the attention and celebrity of their parents. How do they manage their own egos, when so much of it is mirrored through someone else? And as young women, that observation of the mother figure can be critical to the shaping of one’s sense of self. Photographer Sage Sohier has spent a lifetime bearing witness to her mother’s reflection, and the result is a new monograph (her fifth) published by Kehrer, Witness to Beauty. The book begins with pages of ephemera and vintage photographs documenting her mother’s life in front of the lens. The book then moves onto Sage’s insightful portraits of her mother, sister, and herself, revealing a life of privilege, routines and relationships, and two generations in search of common ground.
Tonight, Sage Sohier opens an exhibition a the Carroll and Sons Gallery running through April 1st, with an artist’s reception on March 3rd, and a conversation with Anne Havinga on Feb. 16th. She will also open shows at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, OR, in July, and at Foley Gallery in New York next fall. Sage has been working on Witness to Beauty for more than 20 years, and the Museum of Modern Art and the Cleveland Art Museum own prints from the series.
Sage Sohier has been photographing people in their environments for more than 30 years, after receiving her B.A. from Harvard University.She has received fellowships from the No Strings Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation.
Sohier’s series from the 1980s, “Americans Seen,” will be published by Nazraeli Press in 2017, as part of their “NZ Library” editions. “Witness to Beauty” was recently published by Kehrer Verlag in Europe in late 2016 and will be released in the US in early 2017. “At Home With Themselves: Same-Sex Couples in 1980s America,” was published in October 2014 by Spotted Books. Other monographs include “About Face,” published in December of 2012 by Columbia College Chicago Press, and “Perfectible Worlds,” published by Photolucida in 2007. Other series include “Peaceable Kingdom” and “Almost Grown.”
She has had solo shows at Foley Gallery in New York, Carroll and Sons Gallery in Boston, The Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, OR. Her work has also been included in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the International Center of Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, and many other venues. Sohier’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum, to name a few.
She has taught photography at Harvard University, Wellesley College, and the Massachusetts College of Art. Her editorial work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, TIME, Newsweek, Wired, Audubon, Discover, Entertainment Weekly, and Oprah Magazine, among others. She is represented by Foley Gallery in New York, Carroll and Sons Gallery in Boston, and Joseph Bellows Gallery in San Diego. Her website is: www.sagesohier.com.
Witness to Beauty
This is a series about my mother as she ages, and my relationship with her, that I began to work on in a concerted way in 2000. For a brief period in her youth, my mother was a model, photographed by Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, and once on the cover of LIFE Magazine. As a child, I grew up as a witness to her beauty: I used to lie on her bed, with the dogs, and watch her try on clothes and study herself critically in the mirror. As I grew older, there was no use competing with her, and so I assumed my position, quite happily, on the other side of the camera.
I became even more interested in photographing her when age began to challenge her air of timeless perfection, making it – to me – all the more poignant (bemused as I’ve been by my own changing face in the mirror). So, this is about the aging family: how some things never change, and others, inevitably, do. Some of these pictures are re-creations of old family snapshots from my childhood. Most are collaborative, made on a tripod with a self-timer. -Sage Sohier
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