Man is least himself when he talks in his own person.
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
In Then and There, the well-known photographer Harvey Stein documents a crucial aspect of public behavior at the 1979 New Orleans Mardi Gras. Shooting with an instant SX-70 Polaroid camera, the process allowed Stein to directly interact with his subjects, who perform, observe, and even share in the photographic process. The 47 portraits are made just feet away from each person, mostly at dusk, sharply revealed by the light of the camera’s flash bar. His subjects creatively present themselves in diverse colorful masks, makeup, and revelry. Each portrait is a glimpse into a layered and hidden personal identity made possible by the collaborative choices of the photographer and the subjects acting in front of the camera. The raw excitement of Mardi Gras flows through each portrait with the people physically filling the entire frame of the Polaroid as if the print itself were a stage just for them. Mardi Gras allows both the subject and the photographer a moment of freedom to observe a transformation into another reality of being. Stein investigates these many themes throughout the book, and captures those flamboyant moments of lightning in a bottle with each Polaroid.
Essay by Joanna Madloch
Harvey Stein has had a wide-ranging career as an engaged photographer working in the documentary tradition, utilizing the medium to create photographs that capture the spirit and vitality of the people and places he depicts. His prime focus is to relate to his fellow human beings in intense and close-up images. Through enduring documentary investigations of groups as varied as identical twins, Coney Island people, the street life of Harlem, artists in their studios, people living with AIDS, and life and death in Mexico, his projects have resulted in compelling and evocative in-depth photobooks that help illuminate the human condition and reveal his commitment to building connections through photography. Among Stein’s nine published books are Parallels: A Look at Twins (1978), Coney Island 40 Years (2011), and Mexico Between Life and Death (2018). Stein’s photographs are in over 60 museum and corporate collections; he has had 88 one-person exhibits. He currently teaches at the International Center of Photography in New York City and conducts workshops worldwide. His website is harveysteinphoto.com; Instagram @stein.harvey.
All Photographs © Harvey Stein 2020