MAY 7 - JUNE 22, 2008

Jose Picayo
Robin Rice Gallery
Mug Shots
May 7 ­ June 22, 2008

Opening reception Wednesday May 7th 5:30 - 8:30pm

In an age of artificial beauty,” photographer Jose Picayo explains, "where absolute perfection has become society’s standard, we are often disheartened by the reality of our own flawed reflections in the mirror.” With his newest series, Picayo seeks to revive the concept of pure and unadulterated beauty, spontaneously captured.

Thousands of faces will encircle viewers as they enter Picayo’s installation, which features unframed, brown mug shots, hung edge-to-edge in the Robin Rice Gallery. Using the mug shot format - a split screen image that shows both full face and profile - Picayo is papering the walls with humanity.

A departure from his elaborated staged commissioned work, Picayo’s sixth solo show  at the Robin Rice Gallery represents an epiphany for the photographer. Moved by a makeshift war memorial, which featured the faces of American soldiers lost in Iraq, Picayo was impressed by how much of their “soul” the simple mug shots revealed.

A mug shot, taken once and accepted without any corrections or re-shoots, represents a moment in the life of an individual, but there’s also a timeless quality present in the anonymous crowd. Picayo found inspiration for this series in the work of Mike Disfarmer, a portrait photographer in Heber Springs, Arkansas during the 1930s and 1940s, in August Sander’s serial documentation of ordinary German people in the 1920s and early 30s, and in the images of Ellis Island immigrants photographed by Augustus Sherman from 1905 to 1926. Sherman captured people from all races and walks of life without regard to their social status. Picayo’s images also mix old and young, rich and poor, celebrities and unknowns.

Using his 8” x 10” Deardorff  camera, and 8” x 10” Polaroid film, which became hard to find, as it is no longer produced, he shoots his subjects in a “natural state,” without the use of digital technology or alteration. This is Jose Picayo’s signature photographic technique and he prides himself on his abilities to avoid digital processing.  “A Polaroid is a one of a kind image,” says Picayo, “it is a tangible ‘real’ object you can hold in your hands.”  The Polaroid symbolizes and era that has now come to an end, and Picayo has created a series of books to hold the originals along with a brief statement written by the sitter.

Naturally expressionless and glowing with life, Picayo’s photographs catch his subjects in a fleeting moment, exposing an unprepared, almost vulnerable honesty that we are unaccustomed to witnessing. In this spontaneity, an authentic interpretation of beauty and a deep sentiment is conveyed. “Despite the physical diversity of features and race, they are united by this common perception,” says Picayo, “we are all human, we are all the same and we are all beautiful.”

Picayo was born in Havana, Cuba. As a child he moved to Puerto Rico, then on to Ohio and eventually to New York City, where he studied photography at Parson’s School of Design. His work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone and Esquire amongst others. Picayo plans to continue shooting his mug shot series for the rest of his career, documenting the untouched truth in the faces he finds across America.
For more information, or printable images please contact Robin Rice at (212) 366-6660.