Patti Smith Holds Lecture On Photography At New Orleans Museum Of Art


Videos by American Songwriter

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On Thursday in New Orleans, the day before the Jazz and Heritage Festival officially kicked off, the New Orleans Museum of Art ( hosted an evening lecture with Patti Smith On Photography. The event, which was free and open to the public (though NOMA members took priority seating in the at-capacity auditorium), celebrated the acquisition by the museum of 45 photographs taken by the artist. The collection, a donation by Smith, is now the largest of Smith’s works held by any institution.

NOMA’s Curator of Photography Diego Cortez, who has deep roots in the ’70s and ’80s New York downtown arts and music scene from which Patti Smith emerged, introduced the night’s lecturer. Smith, who has been traveling around the country and world in support of her recent book Just Kids, was a revelation. Folksy and down to earth, she began the evening’s discussion with slide shows of the photographs which have inspired her throughout her life. Work by Richard Avedon and others published in fashion magazines held a particular sway over the youthful Smith in ’50s southern New Jersey.

Smith learned more about photography and also gained the confidence to pursue her own art from her friend, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Their story is captured by Smith in the beautifully-done Just Kids. Much like Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, it’s a tale of a lost New York; of days having to scrounge just to eat and sustaining oneself on art and the inspiration of like-minded friends. It was Mapplethorpe who took the iconic photograph (pictured above) for Smith’s first album cover, 1975’s Horses. To hear Smith tell it, the photograph, inspired by Alfred Stieglitz’s portraits of Georgia O’Keefe, was of equal importance to the music it would house.

After wrapping up her lecture about others’ photographs and singing one song, “Grateful,” Smith took the podium again to discuss her own work: the 45 Polaroid photographs on display upstairs at the museum. These ranged from Smith’s playful riffs on capturing a moment in all it’s imperfections to her penchant for famous grave sites (Whitman, Sontag), artists’ personal effects (Kerouac’s manuscript for Big Sur) and public statues. (At one point, Smith joked that she felt like a paparazzo when photographing William Blake’s life mask.) Smith’s photography is truly an embodiment of her graceful and grounded style. Oftentimes her inspiration comes in a moment alone: a walk by herself to escape the dizzying obligations of a touring musician. For Smith, music, the photographs, a book seem to come naturally. It’s all an extension of a thoughtful and deeply-feeling person.

Patti Smith and her band play Tipitina’s in New Orleans on Saturday, April 24 during Jazz Fest weekend.


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Stream The National’s New Album High Violet