In today’s cluttered world of flying plastic bags, where the paparazzi are idolized for stalking celebrities, photographers such as Coreen Simpson and Chuck Stewart take their world-renowned photographs the old fashioned way—with permission and creativity.
The works of this duo, “Eyewitness: Coreen Simpson and Chuck Stewart,” are on exhibit now through May 10 at the Galleries of the Interchurch Center, 475 Riverside Dr. (at 120th Street).
Although the exhibit only displays 20 pieces, they are totally representative of both photographers’ inner creative perspective, integrating the formal elements with their own personal style.
Simpson has earned acclaim for her conceptual gelatin silver print series, “Aboutface,” which reflects her fascination with the human face and how her conceptual artistry molds each photo into a work of art.
Pieces from her acclaimed B-Boy series also appear, along with penetrating takes of Eartha Kitt, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bowie and Toni Morrison.
“Over the years, I’ve shown with many great photographers, such as Gordon Parks, James Vanderzee and Roy DeCarava, all giants,” said Simpson. “Chuck Stewart is certainly among the greats. I’m honored my work will be represented alongside his iconic jazz subjects.”
Stewart’s “Eyewitness” contributions reflect the serene and swinging world of jazz with striking portraits of Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday.
Stewart’s portraits and improvisational shots of jazz musicians began to take off at his arrival in New York City during the 1950s.
His files of a million or so images appear in The New York Times, Esquire and Paris Match, and include more than 2,000 album covers for the works of such artists as Count Basie, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Washington.
In 2014, 25 of Stewart’s photographs documenting the recording of John Coltrane’s 1965 album release “A Love Supreme” (Impulse!) were inducted into the jazz archives of the Smithsonian Institution.
Simpson’s most current project is “Missing Shot,” a multimedia photography installation in Milan, Italy (September, 2016), and last year’s exhibit was at El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana, in Havana, Cuba. Her photographs are represented in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
As a jewelry designer, her signature piece, The Black Cameo, was launched in 1990.
“Award-winning photographers Coreen Simpson and Chuck Stewart are eyewitnesses to many historical moments of the 20th and 21st centuries,” stated Debra Vanderburg Spencer, guest curator.
The Interchurch Center gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m-5 p.m.
The docudrama “Miles Ahead,” based somewhat on the life of visionary jazz musician Miles Davis, is much more crazy Hollywood fiction than reality. It should be titled, “No Smiles for Miles.” The film is directed by Don Cheadle and co-written by him, Steven Baigelman, Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson.
The film stars Cheadle, Emayatzy Corinealdi (Frances Miles) and Ewan McGregor. The title is taken from Davis’ 1957 album.
For starters, Cheadle is excellent as Davis. He has the voice and mannerisms perfected. The film starts off in a good place but gets progressively worse in a short period of time.
Admittedly, Davis was a drug abuser and physically abused women, including his girlfriend and wife, played by Corinealdi, but the rest is extremely outlandish. It does have the Hollywood formula: sex, drugs and a high-speed car chase.
Davis had too much respect for Dr. George Butler, who was instrumental in persuading Davis to return to recording in 1980, when he was the senior vice president for jazz and progressive music at CBS Records, to do what is portrayed in the film.
In the film, Davis comes into Butler’s office and fires a gun threatening the executive, demanding to be paid money owed to him. Cheadle says in various interviews that his concept was to portray Davis as a “gangster” based on his life in 1945 and the 1970s.
Yes, Davis had a short fuse, but being involved in high-speed car chases after so-called white mobster types was not in the Davis way. He owned a Ferrari. Why would he have some white guy (Ewan McGregor), supposedly a music writer and now hangout buddy, driving him around. Davis would not have had a white dude hanging with him like that.
To see Cheadle play Miles and get just a small dose of Miles as a musician and man may be worth the ticket. Those who knew Miles and his work had much higher expectations. Films dedicated to jazz musicians are rare excursions. But let’s be real. Hollywood is going to take creative liberties to make the film a commercial success, and this film is their Miles answer.
“Born to Be Blue” is a 2015 internationally co-produced drama film directed, produced and written by Robert Budreau. The film stars Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo. The film is about jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker, portrayed by Hawke.
The film follows the standard part-factual, part-fictional formula. It is set mainly in 1966. Baker is hired to play himself in a movie about his earlier years when he first tried heroin. He romances actress Jane Azuka (a fictional character, a composite of several of Baker’s women in real life, portrayed here by Ejogo).
“Unlike Miles Ahead,” “Born to Be Blue” offers a sympathetic side to its subject. Yes, Baker is a drug addict, but he is struggling with the problem. He and his girlfriend (Ejogo) return to his hometown Yale, Okla. to visit his parents and take a break.
Throughout the film, you are pulling for the protagonist to beat his drug habit, stay with his girl and get the big record deal. Yes, it is another jazz film about an addict musician, but there are real emotions flowing here, with a plot that is actually closely related to Baker’s life. Hawke and Ejogo and the supporting cast are worth the ticket.