Photo by Bruce Weber.

Visual Arts

Far From Home, Close to Beauty at the Dallas Contemporary

The largest exhibition to date of Bruce Weber's work shows the photographer's eye for fashion, humanity, and exploration.

If you haven’t been to Far From Home, you need to take yourself there now. Bruce Weber’s new show at the Dallas Contemporary, the largest museum exhibition of his work to date, is exciting and beautiful, to put it mildly.

Weber, a photographer perhaps best known for his images of Calvin/Ralph/Abercrombie Americana, proves himself an effortlessly versatile master of his art with this extensive presentation. The photos span his global travels over several decades, from the early work of his teen years to recent endeavors, all timelessly cool.

The show starts off with a snap of Bernardo Bertolucci and Pier Paolo Pasolini, taken in 1960, when Weber was 14. Inky notes are scrawled on the borders of the photo with abandon. The men are sitting on the ground in their suits with skinny ties, looking as cool in 2016 as they did 56 years ago. Weber’s early work is especially cinematic; reminiscent of Italian film, possibly inspired by his subjects.

Photographs from a few decades later are equally dramatic but feel more relaxed and comfortable. You can see that Weber mastered the skill of genuinely connecting with his subject as he matured in his career. Maybe this is why his work comes across as much more playful than that of many other fashion photographers. It’s as if every subject is a close friend, or as if the camera isn’t there at all. There’s nothing self-conscious on either side.

This sense of intimacy is what makes the show so special. The Duchess of Devonshire laughs as she feeds chickens in pearls and a taffeta evening coat. A few feet away, ’90s supermodels beam with easy confidence as they play around backstage at Alaia.

Even the haute-est of couture yields all pretension to his lens. Weber presents fashion as what it’s supposed to be: an accent to the pure beauty of humanity, inspired by the world. Not to say that fashion doesn’t play a big part — the clothes are dreamy — but this show is much more about people and about life.

Photos from Cannes and Rio de Janeiro are classic Weber. Statuesque figures in portraits of beauty, youth, and unrestrained sexuality are a bold and lovely celebration of the body.

Weber works exclusively in film, and something about that gives a soft, human aspect to the photos. They look like photos, with their subtle, nearly invisible grain, but they’re brought to life with little wrinkles, flyaway halos, and watery gazes.

The artist has a genuine curiosity about the world that animates his work with authenticity. It’s mischievous and refined. As a whole, the show is a dizzying and wonderful account of exploration. Traveling brings so many aspects of life out into the light of day — being alone, being an observer, seeking a connection of some kind. This is all conveyed so clearly and beautifully by Weber. Far from home, but familiar.

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