Harvey Stein: Then and There: Mardi Gras 1979
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. – Oscar Wilde
Zatara Press has just released a new monograph from the indefatigable photographer Harvey Stein. The book, Then and There: Mardi Gras 1979 is a Polaroid celebration of French Quarter high jinx during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Harvey has a long legacy of street photography that extends from Coney Island to Mexico and his photographs reveal the human experience in glorious black and white tableaux. For this work, he shifts to Polaroid capture in brilliant color that perfectly echoes the costume and pagentry of the event.
In Then and There, I document in a one-week period a crucial aspect of public street behavior at the 1979 New Orleans Mardi Gras. Photographing with an instant SX-70 Polaroid camera, the process allowed me to directly interact with my subjects who perform, observe, and even share in the photographic process. The portraits are made just feet away from each person, mostly at dusk, and who are sharply revealed by the light of the camera’s flash bar. The subjects creatively present themselves in diverse colorful masks, makeup, and revelry. Each portrait is a glimpse into a layered and hidden personal identity made possible by the collaborative choices of myself and each subject in front of the camera. The raw excitement of Mardi Gras flows through each portrait with the people physically filling the entire frame of the Polaroid as if the photo itself were a stage just for them. Mardi Gras allows us a moment of freedom to observe a transformation into another reality of being.”
Harvey Stein has had a wide-ranging career as an engaged photographer working in the documentary tradition, utilizing the medium to create photographs that capture the spirit and vitality of the people and places he depicts. His prime focus is to relate to his fellow human beings in intense and close-up images. Through enduring documentary investigations of groups as varied as identical twins, Coney Island people, the street life of Harlem, artists in their studios, people living with AIDS, and life and death in Mexico, his projects have resulted in compelling and evocative in-depth photobooks that help illuminate the human condition and reveal his commitment to building connections through photography. Among Stein’s nine published books are Parallels: A Look at Twins (1978), Coney Island 40 Years (2011), and Mexico Between Life and Death (2018). Stein’s photographs are in over 60 museum and corporate collections; he has had 88 one-person exhibits. He currently teaches at the International Center of Photography in New York City and conducts workshops worldwide. His website is harveysteinphoto.com; Instagram @stein.harvey.
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