By Elizabeth Willse

years ago, Jessica Lange collected portrait photographs she had taken
of her children, to be assembled into a book as a gift for her
family.   The book's designer, Sam Shahid, asked to see more of her
photographs. Looking through her black and white landscapes and
photographs from her travels, Shahid told Lange: "You have a
book here." The result was launched this month by Powerhouse
: "50 Photographs" by Jessica Lange, a volume of
black-and-white landscapes and candid glimpses into strangers' lives.
Though most widely known for her film roles such as her Oscar-winning
performance in "Tootsie," Jessica Lange's first book
showcases her work on the other side of the camera.

lens-scape is her travels," says Patti Smith in the book’s
introduction. "As an actress, she has been captured by the same
light she is drawn to. She has a unique understanding how drama
can be suggested by light alone.".

December 3, Lange and Shahid came to Barnes & Noble Union Square
for a book signing and audience Q&A. Having Shahid look at her photographs those
years ago, said Lange, was "another
amazing process of looking
at my work. I began to see it as 'my work,' rather than 'that box of
photographs on the dining room table.”

took her first photography class at the University of Minnesota,
where she was a studio art major. She took the class by chance-
because all the other classes in her major were full. That same
element of chance and circumstance has guided most of Lange's work in
photography, from the candid shots and landscapes she captures on
film, to the decision to put together a book and a photography
exhibition. Taking photographs, Lange added, "is always a
question of the elements that come together, that propel
you to pick
up the camera."

years ago, she started taking photographs with a Leica L5, which got
her "thinking about black and white film, which she hadn't
thought about since college, eons ago." Rediscovering her
camera, she started taking portraits of her children, developing and
printing 8×10 photographs in her darkroom. Donata Wenders, Wim
Wenders' wife, suggested that she enlarge the portraits and have them
professionally printed. Donata showed them to Wim, who agreed. Ms.
Lange remembers: "Watching him study the prints was a real
education in the craft of photography."

Ms. Lange shoots black and white film with a Leica M6. She doesn't
use color, or digital film. "I'm not interested in color. Black
and white is powerful and mysterious. The play of light and shadow
constantly fascinates me. And I don't have the curiosity about
digital film." In both her acting career and her hobby of
photography, she said, "The notion of film as a physical medium,
as celluloid is exciting. There is a whole tactile life to actual
film that digital doesn't have."

work in cinema has definitely shaped her photographic instincts. "I
prefer to take pictures where the subject doesn't notice me, is
unaware. I'm very shy," she admitted, with a laugh echoed by the
audience. "I don't want to be intrusive. From being filmed and
photographed myself, I know that as soon as you are aware a
photograph is being taken, there is a shift, a tension."

added that in addition to shooting from oblique angles to respect her
subjects' privacy, working in cinema “informs what attracts me
to take the picture.

I use natural light, no flash, but I gravitate
towards pictures that have dramatic lighting.”

fifty images she selected for the book, she said, are
unified by a preoccupation with "the way light and shadow works,
and solitariness, aloneness."

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