top of page
In 1968 Exposure Gallery opened at 214 E. 10th Street, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. It was New York's first full time photography gallery since Stieglitz's "An American Place" in the 1930's. Exposure Gallery lasted 7 years, during which time it showed the work of many photographers, some of whom had prominent careers. Prints from two of these photographers, Michael Martone, and Murray Alcosser are now in the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern. Three books, Pas De Deux by Richard Kirstel, Dark Light by Michael Martone, and In Opposition by Ben Fernandez were generated after shows at Exposure Gallery.
Art. Some of Exposure Gallery's exhibitors were:
M Richard Kirstel
Karen Tweedy Holmes
Exposure's best known show was Pas De Deux, by M. Richard Kirstel. The work consisted of two portfolios of couples making love, a heterosexual couple and a lesbian couple. Though no genitalia were shown in the rich black and white prints, and the art seems is tame by twenty first century standards, the exhibit was extremely controversial at the time, as it was the first exhibition of photographs of the sex act. When A.D. Coleman, writing for the Village Voice, noted the historic importance of the show, people from all over the country crowded the small gallery on New York's lower East Side. Though New York Times photography writer Jacob Deschin refused to review the show, Coleman was subsequently hired by Seymor Peck at the Times to be Deschin's replacement. The show was later published as a table-top art book by Grove Press in 1970.
When I suggested to Allan Coleman that Deschin may have been fired from the Times for refusing to review the show, he replied,
To the best of my knowledge, the facts are these: The NY Times had a mandatory retirement age of 65, so when Jack Deschin reached that age he had to vacate that slot. As his replacement he nominated David Vestal, whom you may recall; David taught private workshops, made his own small-camera images, and wrote both tech articles and exhibition/book reviews for Popular Photography and some other Ziff-Davis publications.
For whatever reason, David did not fit with what NYT Arts & Leisure section editor Seymour Peck envisioned for that slot. Perhaps it was a personality issue, or some inability to meet weekly deadlines; perhaps David's writing was too tech-y and tutorial, not critical enough. In any case, Deschin's matchmaking didn't work out, and so, after a trial period, Peck called me and offered me the slot.
So far as I'm aware, this had nothing to do with Jack's refusal to review "Pas de Deux," and certainly Jack was not "dismissed," nor did I "immediately replace" him.
I told Peck, when he interviewed me for the position, that I had no interest in doing the kind of writing that comprised most of Jack's columns: rewriting industry press releases (who was moving up the chain of command at Kodak, notices of new products, etc.). Peck replied, "That's fine. I want a critic, not a reporter."
So, even though my column (and Gene Thornton's, with whom I alternated in that space) remained stuck at the back of the section, in the leisure/hobby area, somewhere amidst chess, bridge, numismatics, and gardening, Peck wanted criticism, not hobbyist-oriented fluff or trade news. That was not Jack Deschin's dish of tea; as he said often, "I'm a reporter, not a critic." I think Peck just saw this as his opportunity to make that shift, recognizing that the medium was getting hot and needed a different level of coverage than the NYT had provided up till then.
Your version has much more drama, to be sure, for which reason I'd certainly like it to be true. Alas.
I do recall (albeit dimly) that you had written to Peck about Deschin refusing to review the Kirstel show. And that may have helped him decide to replace Jack with someone of a more critical bent when Jack retired under the NYT mandatory policy. But, knowing Sy, I think he was heading in that direction anyway; he kept abreast of cultural matters in general, though his first love was theater.
As a fulltime staffer, Jack would have belonged to the Newspaper Guild, effectively a union at the time, and would also have had job security as a lifelong Times employee. No way they would have (or could have) dismissed him over his refusal to review a show in a non-mainstream art gallery.
Here's the timing:
* My review of the Kirstel show at Exposure: Village Voice, 02/06/1969.
* My first column for the NYT: New York Times, 03/08/1970.
* My report on the Kirstel arrest in Baltimore: New York Times, 11/08/1970.
As you can see, more than a year transpired between my review of Dick's show and my first appearance in the NYT. (I opted not to accept a NYT staff position, stayed freelance, kept my Voice column running, and subsequently wrote a long two-part report on Dick's trial for the Voice.
Exposure Gallery 1968 - 1974
photograph by Joel Schreck
bottom of page