As the Fine Art Chair of ASMP NY’s 1,000-member chapter, welcome to the 2nd column on Art Happenings for “Sharpen,” our new online magazine. This curated column, by necessity, touches upon only a very few of the many worthwhile fine art exhibitions and events in New York City; it includes commentary on things I’ve seen as well as recommendations for current and future happenings.

First, thanks to all who contacted me after reading the Inaugural Column, archived below. One sentence from that column seemed to resonate with many of you: One of the reasons we (ASMP NY and I), more than any other photographer organization, are committed to spending time covering Fine Art happenings is because I believe at the heart of every editorial & commercial photographer is a fine art photographer, which is what drew her/him to the field of photography in the first place.


How often do you get to attend an exhibition of a foremost living photographer WITH the photographer present at the opening? In April I was blessed to attend two! Duane Michals and Lee Friedlander.

michals-duchaine-dc moore

Duane Michal’s exhibition, “Empty New York”, opened at DC Moore Gallery in Chelsea. Not only was he there, but after spending time seeing the entire exhibition on my own, he personally guided me around it a second time. The exhibition consists of 30 black-and-white photographs taken and printed in 1964. The prints, gelatin silver, are small (4 3/4 x 6 7/8 inches to 8 x 10 inches)— a refreshing experience compared to the behemoth prints hanging in many galleries today. The size forces one to move close, very close, which creates viewing them an intimate, one on one experience.

During a panel discussion in March at The Armory Show, Michals said he prefers photography books to exhibitions. That sentiment is shared by Lee Friedlander who has said “the book is more my medium than the wall.”

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More than 40 of Lee Friedlander’s books, published betwen 1969-2014, are exhibited at Pratt Institute’s Library. At it’s opening, Friedlander graciously signed the copy of his wonderful book “America By Car” which I had brought from home.

Knowing how difficult it was to find places to pull over the car when photographing my 2012 Appalachia series, I was curious how he managed to do it to perfection, over and over. He told me “Luck. I was lucky.” Hah! I find that hard to believe. “Lee Friedlander: The Printed Picture” was curated by Stephen Hilger, chair of Pratt”s Photography Department and Peter Kayafas, director of Eakins Press Foundation.

Special thanks to April Renae and Ellen Wallenstein for the Friedlander heads-up!


The month of April also offered an embarrassment of riches because it included THE busiest and most exciting week in NYC for photography. Most every major gallery, museum curator and collector was in town for The Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD) and related events.


– A gallery owner (not telling which one) said: “I’m having buyer’s remorse. I saw a photograph so beautiful, so rare. Having anxiety. I can either get the photograph or buy a condominium for my daughter.” Then he added: “Money always comes back. Art doesn’t.”

-At the M97 Gallery. Shanghai, China: A visitor to the booth told gallery director Steven Harris: “I like analogue. When I see people using it I want to run up and shake their hand.”


Since last year’s AIPAD, two major photographers passed away: Bill Eppridge (October 2013) and Saul Leiter (November 2013). I was struck by the similarity in the photographs chosen to represent them by their long-time galleries.


The Monroe Gallery of Photography from Santa Fe, New Mexico chose Bill Eppridge’s photograph White Barn, New Preston, CT. Sid Monroe, also his friend, said that after 9/11, Eppridge noticed farmers in his Connecticut area painting American flags on their barns as a response to the attacks. Monroe said that White Barn, taken in snow several years later of a faded flag, represents “the passing of time.”

Saul Leiter’s Package, c. 1955, chosen by the Howard Greenberg Gallery, has a similar ephemeral quality. In it, a man is seen through the condensation of a window, somewhat blurry, rushing past, in snow.

The inspired choices by these galleries attest to the photographers’ artistic presence as well as suggest their physical absence.

Although not an AIPAD event, that Sunday I was honored to attend the moving and somewhat humorous “Celebration of The Life and Art of Saul Leiter.”

Attending AIPAD annually since 2009, one of the things I like best is re-visting the non-NYC galleries which consistently show work which wows me, year after year. Those mentioned below are presented in no particular order.

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Scheinbaum & Russek LTD, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Photographers as well as gallerists, the husband and wife team, Janet Russek and David Scheinbaum, are currently photographing the Lower East Side together, she with digital color and he with medium format, black-and-white film. Prints by Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, Minor White and Elliot Porter were among those displayed in their booth.

Ann Landi in the May 2014 Issue of ARTnews reviewed “On View,” the gallery’s current exhibition and eloquently expresed what I’ve been feeling: “In an era when mural-size C-prints seem to be dominating the galleries, its a joy to revisit black-and-white photographs that were made during the last century, when a gelatin silver print of modest proportions could pack as much wallop as a Cindy Sherman psychodrama.”

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, Illinois.

André Kertész’s photograph, Sécurité, (Boulevard de la Madeline), Paris, 1927, tugged at my heartstrings. Kertész is one of my all-time favorite photographers, and as familiar as I am with his work, seeing a print never fails to produce an “Aha!” moment. Also at the gallery, Paul Berlanga, its co-director, pointed out György Kepes’ photograph Juliet’s Shadowed Caged and described it as “the best of abstraction with humanism, and is sexy.”

Danny Lyon + Lee Delano + Dorthea

Richard Moore Photographs, Oakland, California.

There are alway a few photographs Richard Moore shows which take my breath away. Usually by Dorthea Lange. This year was no exception. Lange’s Old time Chinaman of the type that originally followed the crops in California, Sacremento, 1936 captivated me: its directness, seeming simplicity and understated feeling. Commenting on Lee Delano’s portrait, Mrs. Leroy Dunn chopping cotton in a field. White Plains, Georgia, 1941, Moore pointed out the low camera angle and how it reinforces Mrs. Dunn’s dignity. On the business side of fine art photography, Moore reflected on how this wonderful photograph would have been snatched up had Lange’s name, not Delano’s, been attached to it. Assisting in the gallery booth was Kathryn McElroy, who worked under Deborah Bell at Christie’s, and enthusiastically spoke about Danny Lyon’s work.

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis, MN.

It was a surprise to notice Louis Faurer’s photograph, Family. Times Square, New York City. 1950, printed in 1980, was editioned since doing so had not been mentioned when I started exhibiting in the early 1980s. Not in classes, workshops, discussions with the well known or other just emerging fine art photographers that I knew. This print was 17/25. Somehow a discussion with Martin Weinstein about this, segued into a discussion with him about Helen Gee and her book about The Limelight, the first gallery devoted exclusively to photography, which she founded in the 1950s, in Greenwich Village. Weinstein shared a great anecdote about Gee, who had been my mentor and friend.

Weisnstein recalled that, eons ago, she and he were speakers at Columbia College in Chicago. Gee spoke first, chain-smoked the entire time, and was so funny that when it was his turn to speak he just announced to the audience “I’ll answer any questions but I’m not going to talk.” Weinstein added: “she was a tough lady.”

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Feroz Galerie, Bonn, Germany.

As I was admiring Jory Hull’s photograph, the gallery owner approached and explained his insistence that Hull show his work. He met Hull years ago, when they both had studios in the same Brooklyn building. When I asked if he, too, was a photographer he said “fourth generation.” A quick peek at his name tag, Julian Sander, explained everything; his great-grandfather was August Sander!

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

It was exciting, and somewhat surprising, to see a booth dedicated to Roy DeCarava, another one of my all-time favorite photographers. Gallery owner Karen Jenkins-Johnson seemed equally excited to be showing his work at AIPAD. In the late 1970s, when DeCarava viewed my portfolio, there was one photograph he kept returning to; Man at Windows on the World, WTC. I offered him the 11 x 14″ gelatin silver print but he refused and passionately said “never give your photographs away.” Although I was not a student at Hunter College, he invited me to attend his class for the semester. Which I did. When, at the end of the semester, I offered to sell him the print for a penny, I was honored that he bought it.

DeCarava + into text

Michael Shapiro Photographs, Westport, CT.

Roy DeCarava’s Dancers, 1956 is a perfect example of Vicki Goldberg’s description of DeCarava’s “distinctive range of middle tones, nearly elimianting black.” During the semester I attended his class, he referred eloquently to a “velvet black”–“a black with air in it, that you can see into.”

It’s always fun to read the informative text that Michael Shapiro posts adjacent to the photographs in his booth. In 2010, when he displayed Robert Frank’s City of London, 1951, in addition to his regular informational text, Shapiro posted photo copies of two letters, dated 1991, about that particular print. One letter was to Frank from Shapiro requesting information about the print–which he had acquired from Harry Lunn in 1991. The other letter was Frank’s blunt response: “I will not comment on the print you have acquired from Lunn. but [sic]I will tell you that Lunn is a cheap cunning lying bastard.”

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX.

Another treat at AIPAD is the chance to be admiring work in a gallery’s booth, turn around and find oneself face-to-face with the artist who took that work. Which is how I got to meet and speak with photographer Earlie Hudnall Jr.–who has been represented by PDNB Gallery since the 1990s.


© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica, CA.

          Marc Ribould, Antiquary Windows, Beijing China, 1965.

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York, NY.

          Pentti Sammallahti, Przevorsk, Poland, 2005.

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Klein Gallery, Boston, MA.

          Cig Harvey, The Roof Top, Dad’s House, Self-Portrait, Flatts, Bermuda.


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Moderated by Lyle Rexler, faculty member, School of Visual Arts, New York, curator and critic. Panelists: Johan Sjöström, Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden; Nissan Perez, Shpilman Institute for Photography, Tel Aviv; Digital Tech: Corey Keller, San Francisco Museum of Art; and Jeff Rosenheim, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The discussion was taped and will be available on the AIPAD website at a later date. Meanwhile, here is one quote from each panelist that participated:

Nissan Perez: “The role of the museum is education, not the market. The market will follow.”

Jeff Rosenheim: “The role of the museum is inspiration and context…to experience art without someone whispering in your ear.”

Corey Keller: “Curators make decisions that others don’t agree with.”

Lyle Rexler: “I liked the Robert Frank exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art because I saw how he thinks.” (The installation showed the exhibition prints hung in the same sequence which Frank chose for the book “The Americans” and included contact sheets and outtakes, as well.)

Johan Sjöström: When the discussion turned to museums shying away from exhibiting Vivian Maier because she hadn’t edited or printed her own work, Sjöström said ” An exhibition of her work is scheduled next year in Sweden.”

Before the discussion turned to Maier, Rosenheim and Keller spoke about a new exhibition of Garry Winogrand’s work. Many of the photographs were from film developed after his death and not edited by him. The exhibition, which debuted at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, opens at the Metropolitan Museum later this month (June 2014).


Moderated by Loring Knoblauch, founder and publisher, Collector Daily (and ASMP NY Fine Art Portfolio Reviewer). Panelists: Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell, Cleveland; Michael and Elizabeth Marcus, Boston; Arthur Walther, New York.

This discussion was also taped and will be available on the AIPAD website at a later date. Some tidbits:

Loring Knoblauch expertly guided the discussion by asking each, in turn: “What you collect? Why? How has your eye changed over the years?”

Michael Marcus: “Collecting is an addiction…that won’t shorten your life.”

Fred Bidwell: “We often buy from unrepresented artists, never as an investment.”

Arthur Walther: “If I collect someone, I collect them intently; I have hundreds of photographs by some photographers.”


© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

The Space BetweenMarc Yankus, ClampArt

Viewer after viewer approached the prints to examine them, hoping to get a better sense of how Yankus created their hyper-real quality. He said he’s been working on this project, so far, for one and half years.

© Susan May Tell. All Rights Reserved.

Slaves of Mimesis: Nine Years on 23rd Street – Group Exhibition, Steven Kasher Gallery

I am always in awe of how well the Steven Kasher Gallery combines disparate photographs to create magnificent group exhibitions. It was a special pleasure to see Phyllis Galembo at the opening reception so I could congratulate her, in person, for being awarded a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in photography.

Reuben and Girls at Reubens Show copy

Up, Close and Personal, Group Exhibition curated by Ruben Natal-San Miguel, at Fuchs Projects.

Found my passport (LOL) and went to Rafael Fuchs studio/gallery in Brooklyn with Pamela Jean Tinnen and Zach Ranson for the opening of Up, Close and Personal, curated by photographer Ruben Natal San-Miguel. The exhibition included work from thirty-two artists, many of whom were at the fun opening which also featured DJ callmeyo. Although I missed Jerry Saltz, seen at the fun, well-attended event were Sheri Lynn Behr, David Carol, John A. Bennette. Savannah Spirit, Norm Borden, Nancy Siesel, Pete Riesett, Raymond Adams, Jon Feinstein, Lisa Levy, and Michelle Cheikin.

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Hotter than July: A Sexploration, curated by Savannah Spirit at NY Studio Gallery

Another fun event! This one with a burlesque show! When the Huffington Post reviewed the exhibition, the article was accurately labeled “NSFW” (Not Safe For Work)! Got to hang out with Thomas Donley, Mark Kalan, and Pamela Jean Tinnen.

Congratulations to Susan May Tell for receiving a MacDowell Colony Fellowship for the summer of 2015! Tell is an artist whose fine art photographs have been widely exhibited, collected and featured in solo museum and gallery exhibitions. Before choosing to only photograph personal projects, she was a successful editorial and news photographer who spent four years based in Cairo and four in Paris working for the New York Times, LIFE and TIME Magazines, followed by 10 years as a staff photographer and photo editor at the New York Post. A highly sought after speaker, portfolio reviewer and juror of fine art photography competitions and exhibitions, Tell is the Fine Art Chair of ASMP NY since 2008 and produces its acclaimed annual Portfolio Review. She is the Fine Art columnist for SHARPEN.

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