Mary Frey is one of the most interesting photographers you may have never heard of. She earned plaudits early in her career but then seemed to go off the radar. Frey got her MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 1979, and five years after that she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She also won two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1980 and 1992. But her first book, “Reading Raymond Carver,” didn’t come out until 2017, when it made a splash.
During all that time, Frey was steadily working. She taught at various universities, and her work was acquired by museums and collectors. And although her work has been an inspiration to photographers with more fame than she had, she never really took the time to push her own career as an artist. But she has resurfaced again with an upcoming book called “Real Life Dramas,” (Peperoni Books, 2018).
“Real Life Dramas” contains photographs that seem to be from ordinary, banal, everyday scenes of middle-class American life. However, none of the photographs is “real.” Of the work, Frey says, “These photographs, which appear documentary, are entirely preconceived and set-up. Their appearance is meant to hover somewhere between reality and soap opera in order to question the ‘truth’ of the camera’s vision.”
Writing about Frey’s work in the book, Tim Carpenter says: “Woolf cautioned us not to ‘take it for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small.’ Frey plumbs the small with precision, and also with what can only be described as delight. Her details are stories unto themselves. . . . In making her pictures, Mary Frey makes her self.”
Here is a selection of images from the book.
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