Irene Fay [Mine]

Irene Fay's own experience of the photographs she made was that they stood as a path to her inner fulfillment. Both her portraits and still-life images reveal a sense of geometrics and light through which her unique story is told. "I don't intend to reveal social injustice or improve conditions; I don't liberate anybody but myself."

To purchase Irene Fay in Canada, please contact Toronto's Stephen Bulger Gallery
Stephen Bulger Gallery
700 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario M6J 1E7
Telephone 416.504.0575
Facsimile 416.504.8929

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Consultations available by appointment
Catalogue published by:
Singer Photography
1364 N. McDowell Blvd.
Petaluma CA 94954
Telephone 707.778.1774
Facsimile  707.778.6419
Stefan as Bridge, Irene Fay Doll With Head, Irene Fay
Stefan as Bridge, ©Irene Fay, c. 1936.
7 x 7.75 inches.
Doll With Head, ©Irene Fay, c. 1970's.
4.5 x 4.5 inches.


Born in Russia in 1914, Irene Fay lived until 1986 and spent her formative years in Warsaw. In marking the pivotal events of her lifetime, one must certainly take note of the day when, during Secondary School, she wrecked a car. The automobile her father had once promised her as a graduation gift was now miraculously transformed into a Rolleiflex camera. The consequence of this reproach was a love-affair with photography which elicited her vocation and endured nearly one-half century.

Fay married while her explorations in photography began to take early form. But life in 1930's Poland was uncertain and she and her husband planned their escape to Switzerland. "We arrived in Zurich with two small suitcases containing a ball-gown, tuxedo, some toilet articles, a long fur cape, and my jewelry (all of it)," she wrote in her essay, "The Years With Gotthard Schuh". They managed to convince officials they had been invited to a gala convention and their trip would last only several days. They never returned.

Gotthard Schuh was advertising in the newspaper for a darkroom assistant. He was Switzerland's pre-eminent photojournalist. Irene won the job and worked with him over the next three years. Concurrently, she took up a year-long study with photographer Hans Finsler, who taught her the art of photographic chemistry. By the end of the Second World War, Fay was working in Zurich as an independent portrait photographer and there she remained, until 1948.

Fay's next move was to The United States where she met friends Andr» Kertesz, Lisette Model and Diane Arbus at the famed New York camera club. Becoming naturalized in 1954, she worked primarily as a freelance photographer. In 1973, Fay began a ten-year relationship with the Witkin Gallery who acted as her agent. The images she produced during her years in the U.S. proved to be her most famous and comprise a large portion of this exhibit.
Rosalie Fay Barnes, Irene Fay, 1979 Rosalie Behind Mask, Irene Fay, c. 1982
Rosalie Fay Barnes, ©Irene Fay, August. 1979.,
6.125 x 5.75 inches
Rosalie Behind Mask, ©Irene Fay, c. 1982.
4.375 x 4.75 inches


Entitled Mine, Fay's collection may at first glance seem to be comprised of altogether unrelated images, but the artist has revealed, "...they are images which have been seen through my eyes, and captured by my viewfinder. I play the game without rules, and when something strikes me as deeply familiar or bizarre beyond grasp - I shoot. My photographs are the outcome of an intensity fuelled by a mixture of optics, chemistry and my own mysterious needs. And the fusion of motivation and method, the combination of style and theme is just too intricate and too difficult to unravel. It is a secret - as though a film strip wished to remain a puzzle rather than a solution, a riddle rather than an answer - a toy."

Intrinsic to the photographs of Mine, is a centre of light surrounded by darker tones. Subjects poking from their shadowy hiding places uncover true secrets but are not borne of conscious design. What comes through is Fay's remarkable obsession with photography for both its science and its art. "Captured just before it vanishes, and locked in the mysterious darkness of the camera, the image becomes mine. A glimpse of life seen through light has been selected and reduced to a transparent square, and a bit of immense universe seems to have become easier to store. Perhaps it is my dream to possess a perfectly arranged miniature world of my own, always at my command."

Speaking of Mine in 1984, "Mine is a universe which can consist of: a sewing box; a leaf in Puerto Rico; an open kitchen drawer. Mine are snow and rain and a moon over a rooftop, or a barn isolated from the landscape by fog; roses - their petals wide open, hollyhocks, dendelion puffs, cauliflower; mushrooms or weeping willows swinging thousands of leaves over a little white bench. Mine too are film squares of faces that have passed through my life: of my brothers walking with me through Yorkshire moors - through rocks, heather and grazing sheep. And especially, Mine are Stefan and my two daughters, Jani and Ann and their children."

"Should a disaster occur or should another war force me to part with these films again, they would not be lost; they have become part of me. Now, when I think about picture taking, I feel it is a great circular process; of unending cycles of opposites moving toward completion - of reality and fantasy, of good and evil, of heat and frost, of rest and motion. A voyage toward that meeting place between imagination and knowledge which is arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, and which I hope to make mine."

Lola, Irene Fay Emilie's Hair, Irene Fay
Lola, New Kingston, N.Y., ©Irene Fay, c. 1970.
9.375 x 8.75 inches.
Emile's Hair, ©Irene Fay, 1979.
7.25 x 7.75 inches.
Independent Bathing Suit, Irene Fay His Shirt, Irene Fay
Independent Bathing Suit, ©Irene Fay, 1979.
3.375 x 3.375 inches.
His Shirt, c. 1978 ©Irene Fay, c. 1978.
4.75 x 4.75 inches

IRENE FAY (1914-1986)
Studio Portraiture. Private commissions numbering approximately 3000 between 1937 and 1984, as outlined below:
1949-1986. Studio located in New York City. Privately commissioned portraits, numbering more than 1500.
1939-1949. Studio located in Zurich, Switzerland. Portraits of preeminent artists and writers including Friedrich Derenmatt, Herman Haller, Felix Sxalten and Julian Tuwim.
1937-1939. Studio Located in Warsaw, Poland. Polish Repertory Theater commissioned portraits of the leading actors of the time, subsequently creating a permanent exhibition installation of the work. Private commissions included a portrait of the great comedian, Dimsha.
1939. Lot Polski Airlines. Advertising and promotional photography, Warsaw Poland.
Solo Exhibits:
1984 Neikrug Gallery, Inc., New York, N.Y.
1980 Soho Photo Gallery, New York, N.Y.
1979 Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, N.J. (review by David Shirey, New York Times, April, 1979)
1977 Erpf Cultural Center, Arkville, New York
1974 Courtney Gallery, Jersey City, N.J.
1973 Camera Club of New York, New York, N.Y. (review by Jain Kelly, Popular Photography, September, 1973)
1938 Agfa, Warsaw, Poland
Group Exhibits:
1984 (and 1982) Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
1980 Witkin Gallery Inc., New York, N.Y. (agent for Irene Fay, 1973-1983)
1980 Pinhole Gallery, Woods Hole, Massachusets
1978 Whitney Downtown ("Out of the House" Exhibition), New York, N.Y.
1978 Hunt Insitute For Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1972 Discovery Gallery, New York, N.Y. (review by A.D Coleman, Popular Photography, October 1972)
1971 Jefferson Market Library, New York, N.Y.
Daybook From a Kitchen Drawer, book of her photographs and recipes, New York, Adama Books, c. 1985.
Reflections from the Third Day, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsyvania, 1978.
"Brighton, England"(photo essay), New York Times, November 1772.
Sie und Er Magazine, Switzerland, frequent photo covers, 1945-1947.
Nasz Przeglad, Polish daily newspaper, review and photographs, 1938.
Wiadomosci Literackie, Polish Literary magazine, frequent publication, 1938
Kino Magazine, Warsaw, Poland, frequent photo covers, 1938.
Isles of the Gods, book, co-authored with Gotthard Schuh, 1938.
Gotthard Schuh Photographic Studio, Zurich, Switzerland; studied esthetics and in-depth darkroom procedures, 1935-1938.
Hans Finsler Photographic Studio, Zurich, Switzerland; studied theory of photographic chemistry, 1935-1936.
Academy of Fine Arts, Zurich, Switzerland; diploma in Interior Design, 1935.
University of Dresden, Dresden, Germany; studied art history of the Flemish School and architecture, 1934.
Self Portrait, Irene Fay Collage, Irene Fay, c. 1978
Self Portrait, ©Irene Fay, c. 1930's.
9 x 6.625 inches.
Collage, ©Irene Fay, c. 1978.
Double-Sided/24 images. 19.5x14.5 inches.