Galleries : The Human Landscapes Of Vincent Frye
During the course of his 30-year career as a professional photographer, Vincent Frye has taken commercial pictures for such diverse companies and organizations as Capitol Records, the Pennsylvania Lottery, American Cancer Society, and Kool Cigarettes. For someone with such an impressive résumé, Mr. Frye sounds simple and direct when he describes what appeals to him about his life's work. "I mainly shoot people," he says. "I like talking with them. I like getting into their heads."
People - women, mainly, ranging from the starkly naked to the excessively bundled - are the focus of the Vineyard photographer's exhibit at the NYE Gallery in Oak Bluffs, which opened on Saturday.
A photo of a woman wearing little more than white tube socks is displayed alongside a photo of a woman wrapped in a voluminous mink coat.
While Vincent Frye's photos take up just one wall of the cavernous gallery space, his work, a career retrospective, is stunning. The majority of the pieces are black and white photographs on which the artist painted using a technique that was popular before the advent of color photography. Each photograph, therefore, is one of a kind. The colors, applied with small paintbrushes, are matte and used sparingly, evoking one's perception of color in a room lit by moonlight.
In addition to those photos that create sensual landscapes by zeroing in on different body parts, a number of his photos seem to rely on a loose formula that combines striking models in different degrees of nudity, unexpected props, and dramatic settings. While the formula may be simple, the results are provocative, and, in some cases, profound.
Mr. Frye's skill and ingenuity make the scenes he captures seem deliberately orchestrated, even if they're not.
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
In one photo, entitled "Rosalyn," a topless woman in tube socks, sunglasses, and a baseball cap, holds a crossbow loaded with a golden-tipped arrow. She is sitting on a couch covered in a white sheet beside a huge circular light. Seen in one way, the photograph is laden with Grecian symbolism and obscure social references. Seen in another, it's a picture of a naked girl messing around with a crossbow.
Which is true? It doesn't matter. The sharp aesthetic of the image stands on its own. As is the case with many of his photos, austerity and absurdity coalesce.
It would seem most accurate to say that the level of Mr. Frye's deliberation rests comfortably between the over-obsessed and the lackadaisical.
Another black and white photo shows a woman in a mink coat sitting on a plastic chair in front of a lighthouse. An umbrella, flung by the woman a split-second before the photo was taken (her hand is blurry), is suspended abstractly in the air.
Mr. Frye says that people often assign meaning to the various elements of the scene - the fur coat, the umbrella, the plastic chair. "I try to tell them, 'No, that was just the chair there,'" says the photographer, laughing. "But you know, I can play the game."
That Mr. Frye is drawn to the social aspect of photography is no surprise - every photo does have a story behind it. Among Mr. Frye's work is a close-up picture of the actor and comedian, Redd Foxx. The photo was taken during a commercial shoot for a Miller beer commercial, which only took place after Mr. Frye met the comedian's demands for a red cashmere sweater, a bottle of scotch, a box of popcorn, and a studio in which his limousine could park. Mr. Frye was allowed to shoot only one roll of film, which proved difficult because he was laughing so hard.
Just as his photographs make sense of unlikely pairings, Mr. Frye's skill, humor, earnestness, and unique perspective combine to create an exciting visual experience.
Photographs by Vincent Frye are on display at NYE Gallery located at 8 Uncas Ave. in Oak Bluffs.