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Art Gallery

Studio 180

(c) Linda Hutchison March 2016

Stefan Alexander, Photographer. How proud he had been when he’d first seen his name in print.
It seemed so long ago, so far in the past. How quickly 35 years had passed. Now his name and profession appeared in elegant black and white signage below the name of his private gallery – Studio 180. He stood and looked around slowly, taking in the finishing stages of preparation for what he expected to be his final exhibition – his personal retrospective. The familiar lighting, the clean, white panels and copper beech feature wall. He hadn’t expected that culmination of his life to date would look like this. So many stories.

As a 30 year old, all those years ago, Stefan had dreamed of the high life, of celebrity, of fame and fortune, and of the total fabulousness of being able to do whatever he wanted. Of the freedom that money and prestige could bring. His taste had been fairly eclectic, but he had a definite leaning towards city landscapes and people – towards the urban culture and vibrancy of neon lighting. He occasionally favoured black and white photographs for portraits, but he loved capturing the colours of a dawning sky over the glass and steel of city buildings. He would indulge his friends with winning images from their weddings, and indulge his partner by preserving treasured times with their dogs. His life was fairly ordinary, as far as he could tell. But didn’t he want more?

By the age of 40, Stefan had established a solid clientele for his work and had plans to open a gallery. His big break came after a spontaneous shoot one morning by the river. Unbeknownst to him, the couple he asked to pose were wealthy newlyweds from Los Angeles. They were beyond thrilled with the photographs and invited him and his partner out to visit. While in LA, Stefan met and partied with the socialites, and picked up more work than he could possibly cope with. He raised his prices to try to reduce the load, but his popularity had spread and his artistry was in extreme demand. Before he knew it, he had a regular spot on a daytime chat show, and he’d become a household name.

While the money and recognition was all he’d ever dreamed of, Stefan started to appreciate that it came with a price. He now spent most weeks away from home, and his relationships were suffering. He felt as though his partner only ever got the dregs of his energy after his exhausting work out west. He rarely had time to visit his parents, and he only saw his friends if they organised a gathering well in advance. He was being slowly, irreversibly emptied, and he didn’t know how to stop it.

Then came ‘the incident’. Dropping by a club one evening, in the hope of catching an unrehearsed moment among the glitterati, Stefan himself was captured in a clinch with another celebrity. The media let loose on him the next day, accusing him of being ‘the secret lover’ and splashing the damning photograph all over the news. How different an innocent split second could appear when it is appeared in full glossy colour. He found himself having to reassure his distraught partner, cool his inflamed manager and convince his outraged parents that he hadn’t turned into ‘one of them’. His apartments, both in LA and at home, were suddenly under siege by the paparazzi, and clients began calling with excuses about why he was no longer needed.

The stress took its toll and finally Stefan declared defeat. He finished with his broadcaster and went home. He was utterly exhausted. He had money, he had notoriety, but his life was a mess. He bought a small farm and he and his partner retreated from life – allowing themselves time to reconnect and rebuild their precious relationship. Eventually, he decided to fulfil his dream of opening a gallery. They moved back to their home city, and Studio 180 was born.

So here he stood, gazing retrospectively at his retrospective – a turbulent ocean of places and people and times. If anyone asked him now, he would tell them not to seek celebrity, because it was a ruthless taskmaster. It had the power to destroy everything, leaving only misery in its wake. In fact, he would say that opening his life to public scrutiny had brought torment reminiscent only to that found in Pandora ’s Box. If celebrity ever beckoned again, he would turn 180° and run.


Studio 180: Work
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