The International Center of Photography honored filmmaker Laurie Simmons for her contributions to visual culture at their sixth annual Spotlights luncheon, held at 583 Park Avenue, the stylish event space, last week. Launched in 2011, Spotlights celebrates the significant contributions of women in photography and film. A 350-person crowd turned out to honor Simmons, including: Molly Ringwald and her husband, Panio Gianopoulus; Simmons’ husband, Tip Dunham and her daughter, Lena Dunham, Candice Bergen; Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney; Zoe Buckman (artist); Richard Armstrong (director, Guggenheim Museum); Claudia Gould (director, Jewish Museum); Stefano Tonchi (editor, W Magazine); Debbie Wilpon (philanthropist); Elizabeth Mayhew (lifestyle expert); Stephanie Ingrassia (art patron); Martin Bell (filmmaker and husband of late photographer Mary Ellen Mark); Stacey Griffith (celebrity trainer); ICP Trustees Pat Schoenfeld, Caryl Englander, Bicky Kellner, Renee Harbers Liddell, Marjorie Rosen, Heather Vrattos, ICP Spotlights Committee Co-Chairs Peggy Anderson and Debby Hymowitz, and ICP Executive Director Mark Lubell.
Spotlights Co-Chairs Anderson and Hymowitz (both accomplished photographers) kicked off the festivities, before turning the mic over to Lubell, who welcomed Ringwald to the stage for a one-on-one interview with Simmons about her career and accomplishments. The event culminated with comments by Bergen in honor of Mary Ellen Mark, who was a longtime ICP faculty member, as a follow up to the launch of an ICP scholarship in her name earlier this year.
Highlights of the luncheon speeches included Simmons’ comments on:
Simmons said that she was “happy to be here for at least three reasons” – the first was that the election would [soon] be over. For anyone that has made a life study of women and women’s issues…this has been an unbelievable education in so many ways.”
When asked about her film, The Music of Regret, Simmons talked about getting “Meryl” to do the film—Laurie’s first foray into directing. Ringwald joked as an aside to the audience, “Meryl Streep. She’s just an actor if you don’t know,” and then asked about how it was to direct the venerable actress in that film. Simmons quickly responded, ”You don’t direct Meryl Streep. You just stand there and let her do her thing.”
On Women, Art and Children
Simmons talked about the impact that getting married and having children had on her work as an artist: “A number (of young women) have come to me and asked me my thoughts about it. Of all the things that everybody says about Hillary Clinton, I haven’t heard anybody criticize her about being a mother…or Ruth Bader Ginsberg…or Meryl Streep…or Margaret Thatcher…” She added, “One of my answers about the way having children changed my work: It made the structure of going into the studio more (regimented).”
Artists and Aging
When the topic of aging arose, Simmons said that as an artist, she’ll never retire. “I’ll work on what I can work on until the end.” That said, she added, that it’s not quite the same in the entertainment realm. “It would be impossible to be a woman in our culture and not think about issues on aging. It’s there for us to see, every single day.” She also referenced Ringwald being cast as Aurora, the mother, in an Off-Broadway production of Terms of Endearment— something that was hard for many in the room to wrap their minds around, including Ringwald. She recalled, “First thing I thought was ‘the Debra Winger part’… but when I realized it was the Shirley MacLaine role…I said I needed the weekend to think about it.” Ringwald then reached out to a few people—her mother was one; Simmons was the other.
And Candice Bergen’s comments on legendary photographer, Mary Ellen Mark
An emotional Bergen spoke about Mark, recounting the connections the noted photographer made with her subjects, saying, “She never chose the easy story…” Bergen also encouraged luncheon attendees to pledge funds to the ICP scholarship in Mark’s name.
The ICP Spotlights raised $300,000, from a silent auction of over 30 photographs and for three unique experiences. These funds will benefit ICP programs including its education and exhibitions. In addition, The Mary Ellen Mark Scholarship Fund raised $52,000 at the event, thanks to Candice Bergen who kicked off the effort with a $10,000 donation of her own.