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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

York Exhibition Is Sure to Shock




In the city this week along with the rest of the Moscow International Film Festival celebrity entourage, photographer Pat York opened her insightful exhibition at the Manezh Gallery on Tuesday. Titled "Masked, Uncovered and Unmasked," the show is a retrospective of her photographs dating from the 1960s to the present.


York, a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles, first worked as a journalist before moving on to her present line of work. After writing for Vogue magazine, she took on the position of travel editor at Glamour. It was there that she was assigned to cover Japan with David Bailey, a famous 1960s fashion photographer. While in Japan, Bailey took York to the Nikon camera factory, where she bought her first camera. Later, she and Bailey traveled together on assignments to Africa, Spain and Portugal where she soon proved very adept with her camera.


"I had always painted, and fortunately my visual instincts transferred instantly to this new medium. That was when my long and still passionate affair with the world as seen through the lens began," York says.


She soon began to take pictures for magazines worldwide, photographing subjects as diverse as architecture, politics, fashion and celebrities. It was during an assignment in 1967 that she met her future husband, actor Michael York, who, coincidentally perhaps, is also here with the Moscow International Film Festival.


As the title suggests, the exhibition is divided into three parts. The first section is called "Masked" and features portraits of celebrities and politicians, including Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, Edward Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. The shots are a mix of black-and-white and color, and some are candid while others are posed and highly stylized. The tone of the exhibit is epitomized by a John Updike quote featured in the exhibit section: "Celebrity is a mask that eats into the face."


One photograph that stands out in particular is "The Ultimate Trip," a study of the LSD guru Timothy Leary and his wife. Another unusual shot shows Paul Marcy photographing Andy Warhol, who is in turn photographing Pat York. There are also some portraits taken of movie actors while they were filming, including husband Michael York and Richard Chamberlain.


The second section, "Uncovered," portrays ordinary people going about their daily chores ? but totally naked! York does not reveal the names of her models, but the photographs are labeled according to the professions portrayed, such as plumber, chef, housewife, hairdresser, lover and director." Surprisingly very few people have refused my request to disrobe, barriers seem to disappear, and most subjects seem to have enjoyed the experience," she says. "Recently I went to visit Michael [York] who was shooting in Israel, and, considering it is a conservative society, I was amazed at how readily people agreed to pose nude for me."


What is most remarkable is the total lack of self-consciousness of the models, who, engrossed in whatever they are doing, are clearly at ease before the lens.


In the exhibit's last, and perhaps most memorable, section, "Unmasked," York uses her camera to dissect the human cadaver and its internal organs. The title, she says, accentuates the commonality of all humans beneath their protective masks.


York is particularly enthusiastic about these last photographs, which are part of her work on a book about doctors who practice traditional and alternative medicine. She even goes so far as to call one of the subjects, chiropractor and Oriental medicine specialist Dr. Marc Pick, "a modern day Leonardo da Vinci of dissection."


"Nearly two years ago I entered his dissection room for the first time with great trepidation, having being conditioned to view the dead body as something gruesome," York recalls. "The reality was the reverse ? I felt at home. The cadavers and body parts, far from being repellent, were objects of subtle beauty and significance."


One shot features Dr. Pick dissecting the corpse of a woman, Cynthia, who had donated her body to him before her death. Others include close-ups of the brain, a human heart lying on a bed of flowers, the eye of a cadaver and the skeleton of a still-born, seven-month-old fetus. York said that she elected to take these photographs in black-and-white because she thought that color would be too visually assaulting. Disturbing to some, death and graphic depictions of the anatomy can be fascinating to others.


If nothing else, this is certainly a change from the usual exhibition fare in Moscow.