Face to Face: The Photographs of Camilla McGrath

It's hard to say what's a stranger sight: notoriously peevish writer Fran Lebowitz smiling at model Jerry Hall's baby shower or B-list actress Eva Gabor sharing a laugh with journalist Mike Wallace and art world titan Robert Rauschenberg. Fortunately, Camilla McGrath (1925-2007) was there to capture these and other marvelously odd groupings. She kept photo albums from 1948 to 1999 but never exhibited her work; finally, several hundred pictures are on view in Andrea Di Robilant's Face to Face: The Photographs of Camilla McGrath.

McGrath (née Pecci-Blunt) was born into wealth in France, but it was her 1963 marriage to American bon vivant Earl McGrath that gave her entrée into the day's artistic circles: at different points, Earl ran a gallery and worked for Atlantic Records. In his introductory essay, Di Robilant (Chasing the Rose), who was a friend of the McGraths, describes the salon-like gatherings the couple hosted--most legendarily at their art-filled Manhattan apartment--for big-name artists, musicians, writers and others. Camilla kept her camera loaded and handy.

Among the company that the McGraths kept were Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, Andy Warhol authority Vincent Fremont and actors Griffin Dunne and Harrison Ford, all of whom, along with Lebowitz, contribute reminiscences to the book that Di Robilant assembled from conversations. Nearly every photo radiates its subject's or subjects' apparent ease; Camilla could disarm anyone. Face to Face is the culmination of a life's work and of a life exuberantly and generously lived. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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