The American photographer Mary Frey (b. 1948) was the headliner in the category Framing Society in 2019 with the exhibitions ‘Domestic Rituals’ and ‘Real Life Dramas’ exhibited in Flexsalen at Copenhagen Contemporary in the Festival Center of Copenhagen Photo Festival.
She earned her Master of Fine Arts from the Yale University School of Art in 1979, and she currently lives and works in western Massachusetts. Her work has received numerous awards, most notably the a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984 for her black and white-photographs in ‘Domestic Rituals’.
The series ‘Domestic Rituals’ was shut in her own neighborhood in Massachusetts in the years 1979-1984. It portrays an everyday life with children, teenagers and adults in the American middle class. The photos are somewhere between snapshots and staged photography and are both intimate and distant at the same time. Her following series ‘Real Life Dramas’ (1984-1987) appears documentary in both photos and text, but are in fact fully staged and set up for the purpose of discussing the way we show reality and truth through the photograph.
According to the artist herself, the appearance of the series “Is meant to hover somewhere between reality and soap opera in order to question the “truth” of the camera’s vision.” In the light of the digital evolution, the work of Mary Frey is still very relevant three decades later because the self-staging in her photographs draws parallels to the way we portray ourselves on social media today.
Throughout her career she has been very preoccupied with the nature of the documentary image in contemporary culture. Since ‘Domestic Rituals’ and ‘Real Life Dramas’ she has done three photo series, the most recent one being ‘Family, Friends & Strangers’ which she still works on at the time of writing (october, 2019). In this series she lets photographs manifest their own truths by paying attention to quotidian moments.
Mary Frey’s work is very exhibited, less than a month after participating in Copenhagen Photo Festival her work from ‘Real Life Dramas’ traveled to Centre National de l’Audiovisuel in Luxembourg where she has a solo exhibition until the end of november 2019. In 2017, her first book, ‘Reading Raymond Carver’ was published.