(China that is)... My photography career is about to enter its 29th year. Through the decades I have been given many profound and unexpected honors, but few have resonated like what I am about to share.
In October of last year (2017) I was on a train from Madrid to Barcelona, and received an email alert on my phone. I was in Europe because I had been asked to come to London to speak at the world’s only Michael Jackson fan convention Kingvention 2017. A great honor. I was taking a few extra days after that to visit an old friend in Spain. The email was one of those amazing moments that can take one's breath away.
It was from a woman who identified herself as the associate curator at the Musée de l'Elysée, in Lausanne, Switzerland. This museum was curating an exhibit which would celebrate the life and legacy of Charlie Chaplin, and would be opening its world tour at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai from June 8 to October 7, 2018. Then the exhibit would be hosted by the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City starting November, 2018. They were interested in discussing the possibility of a loan of some my images of Michael Jackson as Chaplin which I had shot for MJ’s “Smile” single package. Of all of the work that I did for Michael, I am most proud of this collaboration. I wrote an essay about the shoot which is featured on my website.
To put this into perspective, it is very exciting to have my work featured in a publication. A magazine cover is always a thrill. Of course getting to shoot an album or CD cover is a big reason why I got into photography in the first place, and when you get to hold the finished product in your hand it is especially rewarding. With all that said, I had never even allowed myself to dream of my work being exhibited in a museum, let alone in multiple museums around the world. It was everything I could do to not let out a whoop of joy when I read the email. I immediately wrote back and soon we were setting up a conference call to discuss the details.
In the end we settled on a triptych of the head shots that I did in that "Smile" session. It was also decided that after the exhibition ends its world tour some time in 2020, the prints will become part of the Musée de l'Elysée's permanent collection.
Since I didn’t have museum-quality prints, I needed to find the right place to print them. My first choice was Duggal Visual Solutions in New York. Back when I had originally done the shoot, Duggal was the lab that had processed the original film and had made the initial drum scans of the images. It was appropriately ironic that they should be the lab to make the prints. It was like an early Christmas present to receive the prints from Duggal. I had my friend, photojournalist Pete Kiehart come into the studio to document me signing the photos before I carefully packed them up and shipped them off to Switzerland for framing, and eventually their trip around the globe.
If you happen to be in China between June and October, please go and check out the exhibit “Charlie Chaplin: A Vision” at the Yuz Museum. Or if you plan on being in Mexico City in November, make plans to go and see the exhibit at Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes. Though the location hasn’t been finalized, I understand that the Chaplin exhibit will come to a museum in the U.S., before eventually making it back to Europe. I am deeply honored to have been asked to contribute to this, and of course it is one of the greatest thrills of my career.
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