Sheila Metzner’s unique photographic style has positioned her as a contemporary master in the worlds of fine art, fashion, portraiture, still life and landscape photography. Says Metzner, “Photography continues to evolve and has made my life a most extraordinary one.”
Born in Brooklyn, Sheila Schwartz attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, where she was awarded the Mayor Robert F. Wagner scholarship to the college of her choice. She chose Pratt Institute, where she majored in Visual Communications. Her fondness for painting and sculpture also led her to study with abstract artists Jack Tworkov and James Brooks.
After graduating in 1961, Sheila worked as an assistant to Lou Dorfsman at CBS Network Advertising. Five years later, she was hired by the Doyle Dane Bernbach advertising agency as its first female art director, and in 1968 she met and married art director Jeffrey Metzner.
Metzner started taking pictures, amassing them slowly, while raising five children. Jeffrey’s two daughters from a previous marriage, Evyan and Alison, were also a regular part of the family. Nine years later, a black-and-white photograph of Jeffrey’s daughter Evyan, entitled “Evyan, Kinderhook Creek,” caught the eye of John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, and he included it in his famous and controversial exhibition, Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960. The New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer gave the picture a full page in the Sunday New York Times Magazine section and it became the dark horse hit of the exhibition. Later that year, Metzner’s first solo show at the Daniel Wolf Gallery in New York drew record crowds and Gene Thornton reviewed it in a half page in the Sunday New York Times.
Metzner was now ready to work in color, but not just any color. As with her subjects, of which she said, “If I photograph a rose, I want it to be the essential rose. The kind of rose Beauty brought to her father from the Beast’s garden,” she aspired to an essential kind of color. “I wanted something that would last. I was looking for Fresson even though I didn’t know he existed.”
The Fresson family works outside of Paris and their time consuming “proces de charbon” printing method is a family secret, invented in 1895. Up to seven pigments are used in a print, resulting in the only true archival color print. Metzner is one of the few photographers with whom they work, and Fresson prints are the perfect complement to her style. They resemble paintings, with a finish which Metzner describes as “a glaze on fine porcelain. The moment I saw the neutral gray,” she adds, “I knew it was perfect.”
In 1980 Metzner showed her Fresson color prints at her second solo exhibition at the Daniel Wolf Gallery. This show led to commissioned editorial work for such magazines as Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Rolling Stone.
She had an exclusive contract with Vogue for the next eight years. Metzner considers her Vanity Fair portrait of actress Jeanne Moreau a turning point in her career because “it gave me a chance to show my work to a broader audience. I wasn”t just producing photographs for the art world.”
Metzner also started doing commercial photography around this time. Her first client was Valentino, followed by Elizabeth Arden, Perry Ellis, Shiseido, Saks Fifth Avenue, Paloma Picasso, Victoria’s Secret, Levi7rsquo;s, Ralph Lauren, Revlon, and the fragrances for Shiseido and Fendi (with the Fendi campaign winning a Fragrance Foundation Recognition Award). More recently her clients have also included Club Monaco, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Her work has appeared on CD covers (for John Mellencamp, Barbara Streisand, Michael Bolton) and international book jackets, and she also began doing extensive travel and landscape photography. For years, Metzner was under contract with Conde-Nast, and was featured in American, British, and German Vogue as well as Vanity Fair, The Traveler and House & Garden.
Not content to stay in one area, Metzner has also worked on special assignment for films including Wild at Heart, Black Rain, Jennifer 8, and Bugsy. She has done special photography for John Huston, Jessica Lange, Warren Beatty, Uma Thurman, Isabella Rosselini, John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, and many others. She has also directed television commercials, as well as producing and directing her own short film on the artist Man Ray.
Metzner has published four monographs: Objects of Desire, which won the American Society of Magazine Photographers Ansel Adams Award for Book Photography; Sheila Metzner’s Color; Inherit the Earth, a collection of landscapes shot during her travels, and most recently Form and Fashion, a collection of images culled from twenty years worth of her work in fine-art and fashion. In addition to her own books, her work is featured in countless other books on photography. Sheila was awarded the International Center of Photography Infinity Award and the 1987 Best Print Advertising Campaign Award from the Fragrance Foundation. She gave the William A. Reedy memorial lecture on photography in Rochester in 1990, which was televised via satellite throughout the world. Metzner’s first American museum exhibition, “Sheila Metzner; 1991: A Retrospective”, was held at the International Center of Photography. She was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1997.
Metzner’s fine art photographs are featured in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The International Center of Photography, The Getty, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Chrysler Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, Agfa and Polaroid Corporations, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the Norton as well as many personal collections. She now exhibits through five galleries nationally; Fahey/Klein in Los Angeles, John Stevenson and Staley Wise in New York, Jane Jackson in Atlanta, Martin Weinstein in Minneapolis, and internationally with Jane Corkin in Toronto and Carla Sozzani in Milan.