Sylvia Plachy by the Berlin Wall   photo by James Ridgeway


S Y L V I A    P L A C H Y

WIPI 2004 Distinguished Photographer Award Recipient

by: © Juanita Richeson 2004

Often when I look at a Sylvia Plachy photo it’s as though the ghost of a stranger is telling me rare intimacies about the nature of life. Magical is a word often used to describe her photos, but to me they are wise; I trust them completely.

All photographers know how easy and frequently expedient it is to direct the photo, to shape it into a “message” especially when one‘s subjects are performing only as themselves. A choice of angle or lighting or just a miserly effort on the part of the artist can produce a mean and brittle “gotcha.”

Sylvia Plachy is a generous and unassuming photographer. I always feel like a better person after looking at her images, and a little more hopeful. Although I’ve never met her, I imagine she’s kind, calm and exceptionally graceful because that’s what those pictures tell me. Even the ones full of tension and irony have a feeling of redemption.

In the years that I have seen her photos published in many places, I have stopped repeatedly in front of yet another picture and said, “Who shot that?” It’s never a surprise to read her name. The photos that have taken up permanent residence in my psyche are almost always those of women. Cement Garden, Queens, 1980 is my favorite of so many favorites—a blindfolded, fully dressed woman sunning herself in the midst of hard angled metal and stone. She is half smiling and traveling in her imagination, free for that moment. So many of Plachy’s images reference elusive freedoms, small, willful actions. Even inanimate objects like the dolls in a Beverly Hills collection take on life and a determined personality.

Sylvia Plachy approaches the big issues in womens’ lives with an objective balance—she addresses first the sex trade, then midwifery, twin poles of our sexuality. She pursues the photos with a quiet and steely determination that appears effortless. There is no pretense or declaration of greatness is her style, no grand price attached. Instead, her photos should be carried around in a pocket or purse to pull out in times of distress, carried until they shred to dust from the emotion they have absorbed. I have carried them like talismans to ward off evil spirits. Her work has made me patient and content to watch and wait for some small measure of her perfect elegance.

©Juanita Richeson, 2004, reserved, to publish any part of story, contact Juanit Richeson
Juanita Richeson is an award winning photographer and WIPI PRO member

The Awards Backstage - page 1
The Presentation, page 2
Adrien Brody Video Clip - page 3
The Private Party - page 4
winners and presenters

Sylvia Plachy PR release


Information LINKS:

Visit Amazon for a list of books related to Sylvia Plachy

New Yorker Online slide show, posted 8/5/02

Penn Humanities Forum -2000-2001 theme is "Style." Guest curated by Professor Wendy Steiner
"Her Way" 5-12-2002

Google Search Sylvia Plachy