The photographs of Margaret Watkins are like the choruses of a love song. They are delicate like rare flowers one refrains from picking; the impulse to touch them, or to possess them, would damage their beauty. Better to keep a distance and enjoy the simple pleasure of admiring them.
It is the inseparable link that Watkins saw between music and photography that led her to produce these elegant works now on display in a exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery. In 1923, in response to a magazine preparing a profile of her, the photographer summed up her life with the words: “Born in Hamilton, Ontario, brought up on music and pictures.” Watkins only spent a part of her life in Canada, emigrating to Boston at 24, and later to New York, where the thriving cultural scene satisfied her passion for concerts and opera.
It has been said that Watkins pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable, as much in her subjects as in the degree of abstraction in her work. Her representations of everyday objects set new standards in still life photography, and she was one of the first photographers to put her art in the service of advertising, especially in New York. Following the death of her mentor, Clarence White, she decided to travel to Europe and never returned home. She took countless photographs there, many of which have disappeared. Her elegant black-and-white photographs are supported by a harmonious composition and a tender vision. It is a vision that deserves to be better known.
Read the full text of this article on the French version of Le Journal.
Margaret Watkins: Domestic Symphony
March 14 — May 11, 2013
At Robert Mann Gallery
525 W 26th St
New York, NY 10001