From my review of “SurfLand: Photographs by Joni Sternbach” at the Peabody Essex Museum:
What's the difference between art photography and fashion photography? That's the question I kept wondering about at Joni Sternbach's "SurfLand" exhibition at Salem's Peabody Essex Museum. It features 19th-century-style tintype shots of surfers posed on New York and southern California beaches — sun-dappled bikini babes, sinewy dudes, athletic ladies and gentlemen squeezed into wetsuits, and grizzled old coots. They're all beautiful and sexy, even the gawky youths and the grizzled guys.Read the rest here.
The Brooklyn photographer's old-timey technique makes them seem straight out of the mists of the past. Only the fashions — those wetsuits — betray that these shots were made from 2006 to '08. It's wicked cool and gimmicky, all at once — and not much different from leafing through an American Eagle or Urban Outfitters catalogue.
What makes these photos feel that way? Secondly, is that okay? And, thirdly, why can't I get over my critical self and just give these photos some love?
“SurfLand: Photographs by Joni Sternbach,” Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem, May 16 to October. 4, 2009.
Pictured from top to bottom: Joni Sternbach, “Hawaiian Ed,” 2008; “Kate,” 2008; “Three Girls,” 2008; “Matty + Ingrid,” 2007; “Lily,” 2007; “David,” 2008; “Bettina,” 2007; and “Abbey,” 2008. All 8x10 in., tintype, Copyright Joni Sternbach, Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum.