Paris is a city steeped in history, yet outside of time. For artists and photographers, it has exerted an irresistible pull for more than 150 years ever since the French artist Louis Daguerre created the precursor of the modern photograph, the daguerreotype. Seattle-based photographer, Harriet McNamara, was in the city’s thrall from the 1970s to the 1990s.

A Montmartre scene by Harriet McNamara

A Montmartre scene by Harriet McNamara

Moss + Mineral is pleased to present “Life is once, forever”, Paris photographs by Harriet McNamara, opening June 7, 1-6pm, as part of the group show, “Natural Spectacle: Art + Eco-Furnishings”. The title is from a quote by the 20th-century photojournalist, Henri Cartier-Bresson; McNamara describes this select group of images as an homage to him.

“This man was my inspiration. He moved photography from the recording of events to an art form,” she says. McNamara has lived an urban nomad’s life with stints in Seattle, Chicago and Santa Fe. From the late 1970s to early 1990s, when these photos were taken, she traveled back and forth to France with her camera. In Paris, she honed her photographic art, and founded La Vie En Photos for studies in classical photography. She also became an assistant to the groundbreaking American photographer, Bruce Davidson. Through Davidson, she entered the circle of the legendary press agency, Magnum Photos, associating with members such as Cornell Capa, brother of founder Robert Capa; and curator Claude Vittiglio. She assisted Davidson in New York City, during the mid-1990s, at the International Center for Photography.

Harriet McNamara on a photo shoot with friends, circa 1990. Photo courtesy of the artist

Mid-century and so modern: Harriet McNamara on a photo shoot with friends. Photo courtesy of the artist

With Paris as her base, “Daily life was filled with past and present beauty. The cavernous streets absorbed noise. If I walked down a side street, I felt completely alone. But, ‘observation’ was a constant companion.” Then, as now, she eschewed digital technology for her 35mm Leica w/Zeiss lenses. Made from ground and highly polished diamonds, “these lenses allowed me to enlarge images from 35mm to billboard sizes. I still use [the Leica] on special visits outside the Northwest.”

Since 1990, McNamara has designed jewelry, and her contemporary industrial collection, Surplus, is a bestseller in Seattle and South Africa. She has been the recipient of three Ford Foundation Scholarships in support of her work as a sculptor and metalsmith.

This art photographer’s images of everyday Paris record a past that may already have disappeared. The city still beckons: “My favorite place in Paris is a tiny park near Métro St. Paul in the Marais. It looks toward the Place des Vosges. Around the circle is the Musée Picasso. Truly magic.” But the Paris of her photographs isolates discrete moments that speak of the city’s overwhelming beauty – and its common bustle – with not a cell phone or an iPad in sight.

Photograph by Harriet McNamara

Fishing on the Seine. Photograph by Harriet McNamara

Cartier-Bresson said, “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” Harriet McNamara has preserved those moments for us, and forever. ~Lisa Kinoshita

“Life is once, forever”, photographs by Harriet McNamara, opens June 7, 1-6pm, at Moss + Mineral. Come meet the artist, and check out our fabulous group show, “Natural Spectacle: Art + Eco-Furnishings” featuring Carlos Taylor-Swanson, Jeff Libby and Adrienne Wicks, Claudia Riedener, and Holly Senn. Address: 305 S. 9th St. in Tacoma, 253.961.5220.

  1. Patricia

    Darn Harriet!!! I will be in the south of France all of June. I love your photographic work and value the technical and artistic demands in place during the 1969’s and 1970’s. There is something about SLR and 2 1/4 that deserves a different respect than digital photos. Hope to see them in person! Bisous. P


  2. Pingback: New Show Opening June 7! | Moss + Mineral

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: