For the followers of art and design May in New York is a busy month. There are art fairs, design fairs, the Met fashion exhibit, and a myriad of events. Before long, the entire thing starts resembling your social media feeds – colorful, bubbly, but ultimately quite tiring and unfulfilling. You long for a quiet corner of the world where your brain can get back into a contemplative mood. The new exhibit of Deborah Turbeville’s photography at Deborah Bell’s gallery on the Upper East Side is just the ticket. It is an intimate show of intimate photography in an intimate setting. By god, it is restful!
I first met the photographer Deborah Turbeville in 2011 when I profiled her for our second print volume. It turned out that Deborah was an avid Russophile, and our conversation ranged from her work to her love of Russian literature, cinema, music, and ballet. After Deborah passed away, it was the first article from our print editions that we shared online.
I kept in touch with people who managed Deborah’s estate, and early this year I finally went to see her archive, housed in an Upper East Side townhouse and to meet its co-director, Paul Sinclaire, who also was one of Deborah’s closest friends. While I was browsing the photos, like some kid in gothic Disneyland, I spotted a box titled “Comme des Garçons.” I went through it, and the ethereal, otherworldly photos in it were marked “1981.” Could it be that Deborah had shot the first collection Kawakubo presented in Paris? It very well could, though we did not know for sure. But what I did know was that given the May exhibition of Comme des Garçons at the Met these photos should be made into a book. I asked Paul what he thought about making a book, and he loved the idea.
As you might know if you follow the output of this magazine closely, the photographer Deborah Turbeville holds a special place in our hearts. I interviewed her for the second print volume of this magazine, and we published the profile posthumously on our website, with a slew of original photographs of her apartment. So, I was delighted to see a new exhibit of her photographs in New York, in the gallery of Deborah Bell, no less.
I had forgotten that Doubleday editor Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis originally commissioned the photographs from Unseen Versailles by the late Deborah Turbeville that are on view at Staley Wise in 1981. The mind at first could not, perhaps did not, want to reconcile the withdrawn, intimate vision that is Turbeville’s with the stately, public and, one imagines, rigid New York of Kennedy Onassis.
We have never shared an article that appeared in our print edition, but today is a specially dark day. The photographer Deborah Turbeville has passed away after succumbing to lung cancer. I initially approached Turbeville for a profile for our second volume two years ago. After, she became a dear friend. It is sad to see anyone go before their time, but especially her. Rest in peace, Deborah, wherever you may be.