Way before the selfie and Instagram stories were a thing, social get-togethers provided the ideal photo op. Posted to a different sort of wall, “Other People’s Parties,” comprising merrymaking moments captured by a host of big-name photographers on view at Hofstra University’s David Filderman Gallery, presents the perfect visual romp for the holiday season.
“It gives current social-media use context,” notes acting director and chief curator Karen Albert of the 25 black-and-white prints comprising the Hofstra show. “It’s not new. It is what we have always been photographing. There is a tradition of recording and immortalizing celebrations and gatherings.”
Culled from the university’s extensive permanent collection of some 5,000 artworks, the staged portraits and candid snapshots by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Andy Warhol depict a compelling array of social occasions and attending characters, from well-heeled guests at formal galas to casual hangouts with close friends. They also depict relatable encounters that can elicit both warm memories and feelings of discomfort.
“The simultaneous attraction and repulsion we might feel from these images mirrors our modern world of infinite scrolling through other people’s pictures,” writes collections manager Kristen Rudy in a published introduction for the exhibition. “The constant bombardment of images of other people’s parties can increase our fear of missing out, while also inspiring us to remember the important moments of our own lives.”
Describing the latter are Mary Ellen Mark’s “Quinceañera, Miami 1986,” a coming-of-age outdoor portrait with the honorees’ fanned-out, ruffled gowns echoing the silhouettes of open umbrellas, and Warhol’s print of a chummy ensemble seated in an intimate denlike setting. Joseph Szabo, widely known for his book “Almost Grown” depicting his photography students at Malverne High School, contributes “Night Owls,” a party of only two whiling away the evening hours on a suburban sidewalk.
Less inviting though no less riveting are photos by Larry Fink and Danny Lyon that use lighting and compositional techniques to reveal underlying social tensions. In Fink’s “False Men and Their Makers,” a 1977 shot taken on the dance floor of New York City’s Studio 54, for example, couples with arms wrapped around each other are caught glancing past their partners and even at someone else. In other images by Fink, including “Black Hand — Checkered Rump,” which features the two body parts highlighted in its title, and the similarly cropped “Spilled Glass and Legs,” he focuses on small details to pique viewers’ interest.
“It invites the observer to question what is happening,” says Albert, “to look for the truth beneath the constructed realities we present to others.”
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 12-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Hofstra University's David Filderman Gallery, Joan and Donald E. Axinn Library, 1000 Hempstead Tpke., Hempstead
INFO Free; 516-463-5672, hofstra.edu