LENS CRAFTER: Photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders almost skipped the September Seventies and Eighties fashion reunion hosted by his friend, British hairstylist Harry King. But it was there that Greenfield-Sanders found the idea for his next project. As soon as Greenfield-Sanders saw the era’s top models chatting each other up with their progeny, he thought, “This screams Vanity Fair group portrait. I called Vanity Fair the next day and they immediately responded.” The resulting group image with models leaning against and standing on ladders is based on a classic 1947-1948 black-and-white Irving Penn composition. Greenfield-Sanders also shot 10 of the models in his spare style. The portraits of Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs, Beverly Johnson, Carol Alt, Dayle Haddon, Esme, Karen Bjornson, Kim Alexis, Lisa Taylor and Nancy Donahue can be seen at the Steven Kasher Gallery through Feb. 27. (The opening reception is today.)
Greenfield-Sanders was struck by Johnson’s story and the obstacles she faced trying to break into the elite modeling industry as an African-American and so he invited her to participate in another one of his projects, “The Black List,” a documentary series about prominent African-Americans telling stories of struggle and achievement, directed and filmed by Greenfield-Sanders with interviews by Elvis Mitchell, now in its third edition. “We talked about the fashion industry and racism and what it meant to be the first black model on the cover of Vogue,” Greenfield-Sanders said. “I was angry,” Johnson said in the film. “I was the first? Why?” Johnson recounted a not-so-pretty episode from her childhood when she was a swimmer on the first all black girls’ swim team from Buffalo, N.Y. Sometimes, the Buffalo team would go to compete with other swim clubs, only to be turned away because of their color, she said. Often, “once we got in and competed, they would drain the pool when we left.” “Volume Three” airs on Feb. 8 at 8:30 p.m. on HBO during Black History Month. The half-hour program features eight subjects, as opposed to the hourlong volumes one and two, which had 21 and 15 interviews, respectively. Other participants in the third edition include John Legend, Hill Harper, United Negro College Fund president Dr. Michael Lomax, BET chief executive officer Debra L. Lee, actor LaTanya Richardson and director-producer Lee Daniels.
— Sharon Edelson