I first saw Stephen Gill’s work at this year’s New York Photo Festival where a group of his black and white still lifes of folded toilet paper made an amusing point in the Kathy Ryan curated show, “Chisel”. But
it was a glimpse of three pictures from his “Russian Women Smokers” series on the blog I Heart Photographs that really caught my attention.
While he is not essentially a still life photographer, these pictures, simple studio shots of discarded lipstick-stained cigarette butts, are at once a reference to the famous Irving Penn photographs and a brilliant series in their own right – elegant, narrative, and redolent of another world and era. While they may not have been possible without the precedent of Penn’s insight, I like Gill’s pictures better.
A visit to Gill’s website shows a fertile mind and active lens, presenting 25 different (or related series) - from a group of prints buried in the earth (to see the effects of decomposition) to several series taken in Hackney, an area of London now undergoing Beijing-like redevelopment in anticipation of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
I particularly like the series “Hackney Flower Portraits” – pictures of people wearing different floral motifs. All these pictures were taken with a camera Gill bought for a dollar at the Hackney market!