An Artist Talk with Roger Farrington: Celebrity in Boston, 1976-1996

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All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Alec Baldwin – The Charles Hotel, 1994. All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

I invite my Haute Living readers to join Celebrity Photographer Roger Farrington as he talks about his Special Boston Exhibit at The Panopticon Gallery. Saturday, March 25, 2017 from 1:00-4:00PM, there is a delightful and much anticipated artist talk and the perfect opportunity to gain greater insight into each photograph in “Roger Farrington: Celebrity In Boston, 1976-1996” and learn more about Roger’s joyful journey over the past 30 years of his vast photography career. Roger, a living legend and most certainly noted Boston photographer will discuss his show as a whole rather than each photograph individually as he says that the story really is in the works of art collectively and the photos on their own tell another story. Yet, for “Roger Farrington: Celebrity In Boston, 1976-1996”, Roger shares an exclusive selection of fifty classic candid shots of internationally known celebrities who visited Boston from 1976 to 1996. The photographs together integrated tell one story that is profound, as it is an educational journey from a time when there was no social media.

All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Christie Brinkley – Filene’s, 1980. All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Brooke Shields – Filene’s, 1980. All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Cher – The Esplanade, 1996. All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

The photos communicate a message about a time in Boston when society viewed the concept of “celebrity” differently from today. Pop culture was different so in each photo one can learn about a unique moment in history. Celebrity was viewed as vacuous meaningless emptiness compared to today’s view of celebrity in Boston in a time filled with social media including such platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and/or Facebook. Marshall McLuhan, the great media theorist said, “The medium is the message.” And this curated show by Photographic Resource Center director Jim Fitts and Panopticon Gallery owner Jason Landry, is all black and white silver gelatin prints and that in and of itself tells us of a time when black and white print was what led the media. One can see images of Emerson College graduate Jay Leno to the gorgeous eternal beauties Christie Brinkley and Brooke Shields to the fabulous and one and only Cher. And for all the Saturday Night Live (SNL) TV show lovers, Alec Baldwin is included too! And for those suspense readers Roger even includes the mastermind of supernatural, suspense, and science fiction, American author Stephen King! Now whether actor Michael Douglas is from your generation or Charlton Heston, Roger includes images of them too as well as the incredible Luciano Pavarotti to Frank Sinatra. There is a message in the show for everyone and this wonderful extension of a time and era that cannot be lost or forgotten is captured by Roger and his work so beautifully and eloquently. Technology has changed not only the way we view photographs but also the way in which we take and share photographs or in other words how we capture an experience or moment and disseminate a message. Indeed, popular culture has changed because of social media and the entire digital age. Yet, thanks to Roger Farrington, Boston has been given an opportunity to appreciate a moment in time when “celebrity” celebrated a particular person with an artistic skill and talent. How ironic given that at the time the photos were taken, Boston seemed to be above “celebrity” because Boston was the brain capital of the United States where intellect and great knowledge was held high and most appreciated and there was no authentic space for it in the media because luxury lifestyle or lifestyle and entertainment media was different then as it is now. Therefore, the uniqueness of the story told in Roger’s show becomes and is even more memorable and the photos tell of a time of genuine glamour and glory. As I studied the show including the name and title of each piece, I was inspired to ask Roger the following:

Roger Farrington Photo by Wayne Dion
Photographer Roger Farrington by Wayne Dion

Photo Credit: Wayne Dion

Who inspires you?
My daughter, Isabel (24), is currently working on a photo documentary project that is really amazing. She and a friend spent 3 months driving all around the country shooting what they saw, experienced, and were inspired by. Isabel shot mostly film – 35mm, 120 medium format, and Super 8 movie film – using equipment from the 1970’s & ‘80’s. Her portraits are inspiring because they are subtle yet complex, colorful, and contemporary. She has her own eye.

What inspires you?
Going out on location and getting the shot, for myself and/or for the client. Before the shoot, I pre-visualize the final image and strategize. During the shoot I conspire with my subjects, including them in the process. Seeing the final image published just the way you imagined, can be addictive.

What is your favorite photo? Or photos?
So many great photographers…The work of Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, and so many others…Avedon’s “In the American West” project that came to the ICA in 1987 was brilliant. His 60 x 48 inch larger than life-sized prints are some of the finest hand-made ever in the medium. (In my show is a photo of Avedon at his opening).

Why?
The best work always seems obvious and ground breaking at the same time – holding up a mirror for us all to see ourselves in way that we never noticed before. That is art. Just think about what Ansel Adams’ black and white photographs did to forever change how we look at our magnificent National Parks…or any mountain.

What is the story you are sharing through your photos?
I’m still trying to figure that out. Maybe I’ve noticed how much the concept of celebrity is changing. All these shots were taken pre-internet, pre-cell phone “selfie,” and pre-Facebook. Today, with these tools constantly in use, everyone seems to be starring in their own star-studded worlds of friends, families, pets, vacations, etc. We have celebrity for the sake of celebrity. One is reminded of Andy Warhol’s famous dictum, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” (In the show is a photo of Andy Warhol on Newbury Street)

Marshal McLuhan says, “The medium is the message.” Back then it was black and whites, today it’s Digital Images – has the message changed accordingly?
Or is the content the same just a different presentation and medium?
Content is now driven entirely by “eyeballs for advertisers.” News gathering organizations that pay smart people to select, acquire, fact-check, and edit information according to journalistic standards, must compete financially today with the “cat-chasing-the-string” home video clips on YouTube.

What is your interpretation of “Celebrity In Boston, 1976-1996”?
I am open to suggestions, what is yours? Boston was really a back-water, provincial capital in 1975 when I started working at the Charles Playhouse after college. Mayor White, in his last administration, set in motion Boston’s rebirth as a major, world-class city – from hotel, retail, restaurant, the arts, to luxury housing development – that continues to this day. Perhaps the exhibit’s cross section of international celebrities, visiting Boston between 1976 and 1996, highlights those changes.

What is your favorite place in Boston?
Beacon Hill at night after light rain or dusting of snow.

Your favorite theatre?
The Charles Playhouse (before Sheer Madness and Blue Man Group turned it into a tourist trap)

Your favorite restaurant?
It’s wild & crazy dining in Boston on a Saturday night! Eastern Standard is a fun place to go after viewing my show, both are in Hotel Commonwealth.

Your most memorable experience in Boston?
Being married at the Wang Center on New Year’s Eve.

Your one year goal? Your five year goal? And most important message that you want to share with my Haute Living readers?
I would like to have more Boston exhibits and maybe find a home for my archive. Each and every life has an amazing story to tell.

All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Luciano Pavarotti – Reception, Wang Theatre Grand Lobby, 1984. All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Michael Douglas – Romancing Elliot Stone, Jordan Marsh, 1984. All photos are copyright Roger
Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Andre Dubus, Stephen King & John Irving – Charles Hotel, 1987. All photos are copyright Roger
Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.
Charlton Heston (Lydia & Holly Heston) – Wang Center Film Festival, 1991. All photos are copyright Roger
Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Jay Leno - Backstage, Nick's Comedy Stop, 1984
Jay Leno – Backstage, Nick’s Comedy Stop, 1984.
All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

Photo Credit: All photos are copyright Roger Farrington and provided courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery.

For more information on the show, “Roger Farrington: Celebrity In Boston, 1976-1996”, please go to http://www.panopticongallery.com and/ or visit the gallery at 502c Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215 located inside the Hotel Commonwealth. You can call, 781-718-5777 for further details. The gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00-3:00 PM. And/or to send an email message: [email protected] The artist talk is Saturday, March 25, 2017.  Yet, the show continues to run now through April 30, 2017.

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