Creating the “Tony Bennett: Portrait of An Artist” exhibition was a natural progression for photographers Josh Cheuse (BFA 1988 Photography) and Kelsey Bennett (Pre-College Program participant), granddaughter of Mr. Bennett. On view at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in SoHo, 124 Prince Street, until Sunday, October 9, the show documents the recording process of Tony Bennett’s new album DUETS II (RPM/Columbia Records) and features images of the legendary singer with the likes of k.d. lang, Amy Winehouse, Willie Nelson and Lady Gaga. All of the photos were taken by Kelsey Bennett and Cheuse, who began photographing bands when he was 16 years old and has worked for such publications as SPIN, Rolling Stone and Time Out. Kelsey Bennett has also been taking photos since she was an adolescent, and has since had the opportunity to intern for Danielle Levitt and Annie Leibovitz. The younger Bennett shared some thoughts about the exhibition and her photography via email with the Briefs recently.
How did the idea for this exhibition come about, and why did you decide to do it now?
My grandfather’s record DUETS II was released the same day as the gallery opening. As well as portraying Tony’s life as an artist, we also wanted to capture him with his DUETS partners to celebrate the record.
How did you team up with Josh?
In addition to being a photographer, Josh is also the art director at Sony. He designed the layout of the record. Throughout the years, Josh has become a close family friend.
How did your time at SVA contribute to your development as a photographer?
Being at SVA helped me use my sense of exploration to find what inspires me on the streets of New York. There used to be a punk club on Saint Marks Place called Coney Island High. I would go there every weekend. When I was at SVA, the club closed. I walked downtown and talked my way into the place. The guy originally wasn’t going to let me in but was swayed by the fact that I was shooting for school. Everything was left as I had remembered. I photographed the stage and the murals on the wall. I gained access into a place I never thought I’d see again. I still have those shots.
How does your photographic style differ from other photographers?
I am more concept driven. When I’m shooting, I keep an idea in my head that I want to later portray through the photograph. Josh loves to work with natural light. He waits for the light to create something beautiful, and he captures it. He has an incredible shot of my father and grandfather [Tony Bennett] on the roof of Capitol Records.
What do you want viewers to take away from this exhibition?
My grandfather is 85, and he has been working and living as an artist for most of his life and traveling the world to bring people his art. As well as being a singer, he paints and has just taken up sculpting. I want viewers to come away from the exhibit feeling inspired by how my grandfather has actively dedicated his life to his passion.
Images: Photo of Tony Bennett and Kelsey Bennett by Kyle Dean Reinford. Courtesy of Kelsey Bennett.