New York-based, New Hampshire-bred photographer Jessica Craig-Martin has made a career shooting the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Known for her often subversive photographs of glamorous subjects, Craig-Martin has seen her work appear in Vogue, Vanity Fair and museums from the Guggenheim to the Whitney. Her latest exhibit, the 44-banner photo series Objects of Desire, makes its debut on May 21 at The Street in Chestnut Hill.
What drew you to photography—and to shooting celebrities in particular? I think I have always been a social anthropologist by nature. So there is that element. But I also love the purely visual, sensual element of clashing colors and textures; furs, silks, lips, jewels and bare skin are all there for me to play with. I forget everything else when I’m shooting. It’s like an altered state—a blissful one.
What do you think makes something an object of desire, beyond the obvious ideas of luxury or sex appeal? Perversity and advertising.
You’ve shot for some big names. what was your favorite shoot of all time? My favorite occasion to shoot is the annual amfAR benefit gala in Cannes. It requires a full avalanche of excess to properly honor that excellent cause. Where else can you see Madonna auction off the contents of her handbag, or Sharon Stone in a diamond neck brace and a mile of leopard chiffon, weeping with joy as she announces her new pediatric AIDS center in Tel Aviv, or see people bid millions vying for a ticket into space with notorious anthrophobe Leonardo DiCaprio? … As a social anthropologist and unapologetic lover of luxe, I am fascinated to witness the proceedings of such an event. We live in the time of the Mega Benefit Gala. Welcome to the circus!
Favorite subject you’ve captured? Elizabeth Taylor, late in life: looking bored, dripping in diamonds and being borne into the party, supine on a palanquin, by men in tuxedos.
How about a dream subject, someone you’ve yet to shoot? I’m a huge Cher fan.
Where would you photograph Cher? In her walk-in mink and thong closet.
There’s that old superstition about how a camera can steal a person’s soul. If you could steal a little bit of any one person’s soul through your camera, to hold onto for yourself, whose would it be? I wouldn’t mind having a little [socialite and arts philanthropist] Yvonne Force Villareal in my soul. Maybe that’s why I take her picture so much. Watch out Yvonne!