About US-photographer Mary FREY (b.1948)

Mary FREY is a photographer and educator who earned an MFA from Yale School of Art, Yale University in 1979. After her MFA, she accepted a full-time position teaching photography at Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, where she stayed for 35 years.
Her staged scenes of mundane middle-class life, using family, friends and strangers, which appear to be documentary at first sight, are intended to address 'the nature of the documentary image in contemporary culture.' In 1984 she had a solo exhibition at the Hudson River Museum and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has been shown in group exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and held in the collection there and at the Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Mary FREY has published four photovolumes in total to date and lives in western Massachusetts.

Photo books by Mary FREY

  • 'Imagining Fauna' (2014)
    'Domestic Rituals' (2014)
    'Reading Raymond Carver' (2017)
    'Real Life Dramas' (2018, with an essay by Tim Carpenter)

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'Real Life Dramas' by Mary FREY is a time machine that takes us 35 years back in time, into the reality of an undetermined place. Hyperreal photographs capture charged banalities on large-format films: images of people of the US-American middle class.
148,00 € * Weight 1.1 kg
The photo book 'Reading Raymond Carver' shows how the young photographer Mary FREY began in 1979 to photograph family, friends and strangers in their immediate surroundings. Responsibility, duties, worries and the need to look for meaning in everyday life
98,00 € Weight 0.8 kg
Solo exhibitions
  • 1984: 'Domestic Rituals: Photography by Mary Frey', Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY
Group exhibitions or exhibitions during festivals
  • 1986/87: 'New Photography 2' (together with works by David HANSON and Philip-Lorca DiCORCIA, Museum of Modern Art, New York
    1991: 'Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort', curated by Peter Galassi, Museum of Modern Art, New York
    2010/11: 'Pictures by Women: a History of Modern Photography', Museum of Modern Art, New York
    2019: 'Domestic Rituals' & 'Real Life Dramas', Copenhagen Photo Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark

Detailed information about two photographic projects, 'Domestic Rituals / Reading Raymond Carver' & 'Real Life Dramas'

Mary FREY makes staged scenes of mundane middle-class life, using family, friends and strangers, which appear to be documentary at first sight.
"I was interested in how the best pictures create their own fictions, I considered all my subjects (whether they were friends or strangers) my 'cast of characters' who were complicit in whatever I did. My working method was to set up my camera and either wait for something to happen or simply direct my subjects to recreate an action or moment, as if they were truly engaged in their activities… For me, the most interesting photographs hover somewhere between feeling documentary and set-up, thus questioning the inherent 'truth' of the photographic image." (Mary FREY)
The series 'Domestic Rituals' is composed of black and white work made between 1979 and 1983 using a 4×5 large format camera and diffuse flashbulb lighting. Mark STEINMETZ wrote in Time that these photographs 'seem quite naturalistic, but are in part staged by the photographer, and she avoids the temptation to romanticize.' William Zimmer, reviewing an exhibition of 'Domestic Rituals' in The New York Times, wrote that 'how she captures [. . .] her large cast of characters [. . .] going about their lives without them being self-conscious in her presence, is the real marvel.' Originally made for gallery walls rather than for book format, the work was published as 'Reading Raymond Carver' in 2017.
"My use of large format film insures the fact that every detail in a scene will be described with painful accuracy and the open flash I use illuminates these surfaces with a neutral, democratic light, so no detail takes precedence over another, giving everything in my scenes equal visual weight." (Mary FREY)
'Real Life Dramas' is colour work in the same vein as her previous work, made between 1984 and 1987 using a medium format camera. Originally when exhibited, the images were paired with captions. The captions 'come from the paperback romances that the women she photographs presumably read, and her choice of captions is invariably both apt and funny. [. . .] Though her witty texts seem appropriate to the pictures, they are actually ... [not] revealing of her subjects' actual thoughts'. When this work was published as a book in 2018, the strict pairings of text and image were abandoned, but the phrases still included throughout.