Patti Smith: Camera Solo

photographs taken by the legendary musician, poet and artist.

May 30, 2012 at 12:00 am

Patti Smith: 

Camera Solo


What: An exhibition of photographs taken by the legendary musician, poet and artist.

Where: Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900;

When: Opens Friday, June 1 and displays through Sept. 2.


From her early experiments with visual art in the '60s and '70s to her music that forever altered the music of the late '70s, '80s and beyond, Patti Smith has had an indelible impact on American culture. Her first artistic forays involved the visual arts, often collaborating with her one-time lover and friend, the visionary photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, when the two were starving artists involved in the renowned artistic and intellectual scene of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late '60s. It was then that she began taking 35 mm photos to use in collages, but it wasn't until 1995 that she began seriously working and experimenting with an old school Polaroid Land Camera.

Images taken with this vintage instrument comprise Camera Solo, which features more than 60 black-and-white prints that offer intimate insight into Smith's view of the world. The photos, which reveal incredible sensitivity and unusual beauty, highlight themes that have been significant to her throughout her life —poets and writers, art and architecture, family members and artistic muses. Many pieces commemorate the artists, friends and family members who've inspired her, whether through straightforward portraits or symbolic images, such as Mapplethorpe's slippers or her father's drinking cup. The small scale of the photos and their lack of digital manipulation create the same sense of emotional immediacy present in Smith's poetry and music. While the images resonate with personal significance, they document the commonplace, from simple objects to seemingly casual snapshots of family members, finding the beauty and poetry of a single moment in the everyday.


Camera Solo marks the first American museum exhibition to focus on Smith's photography. Along with the gelatin silver prints, the display also includes a small selection of original Polaroids, as well as items from Smith's personal collection. In conjunction with the opening of the exhibit, Smith performs live at the Detroit Film Theatre on Friday, June 1, with her son Jackson Smith on guitar and her daughter Jesse Smith on piano.