About Art Zelin Photography

For more than 50 years, photographer Art Zelin has pursued his passion for exclusively documenting the glittering personalities of his day, as well as the hottest events of the New York City social scene.

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s especially--if it happened, Art Zelin was there.

Now this unique catalog of vintage imagery is being shared with the world in its entirety for the very first time, offering a rare glimpse of America's most sophisticated lifestyles, captured whenever its fashionable celebrities came out to play.


Artist Statement from Art Zelin

On a dare in 1962, I sneaked into the movie premiere of “Only Two Can Play” (starring Peter Sellers), clutching my Nikon N600 SLR camera with 200mm zoom lens.  Having long been fascinated by actors and actresses of the silver screen, I was immediately addicted to the thrill of the clandestine capture of their images.  Though I had little formal training, I had a passion for revealing the unseen truths about movie stars--the mythological figures of the modern age.  I had become a paparazzo.  

Half a century and ten thousand images later, I am still living up to that dare.  My work is a delicate balance of respect and invasion, adoration and critique.  I do not seek to violate the privacy of those I photograph but I do seek to uncover clues to that icon's underlying humanity.  

My photographs trap a public figure like a prehistoric wasp in amber.  A single moment is extracted from a bustling movie premiere, a packed nightclub.  That photograph, that moment captures the subject's unpolished humanity.  In the frame one can see charisma or fear or composure or fragility.  Youth, though fleeting in life, is held captive.  Fashion, ever capricious, is frozen.  The gauzy curtains of fame are pulled aside for an instant to reveal a human person who may confirm our idealized notions of stardom or remind us of the true frailty carried in each of us.  

Over the span of my career, the nature of celebrity has changed along with fashion and photographic technology.  My images of Jacqueline Onassis in all her poise and composure, rendered in the saturated color of 1960's film stock, stand in fascinating contrast to my images of Britney Spears, captured in crisp digital frames and displaying the curious high-low dialectic of the modern tramp-superstar. 

In 50 years behind the lens, I have sought to capture the truth that underlies idolatry.  I have sought to capture the person underneath so much gloss.  In the arc of my work, one can see the evolution of fashion, photography, and celebrity; but the truth of humanity holds constant.