Tub Shots

Don Herron's New York

BY: Jes Zurell

Don Herron was a gift the world at large had yet to unwrap when he died on Christmas Day, 2012. He was a multifaceted man whose many talents made him equally at home in rural historical societies or in the most glittery pair of stockings in the Lower East Side. Now, for the first time, his provocative photographs of New York personalities in their bathtubs are on view at a show called “Tub Shots,” at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York.

“I was surprised by how much work there was,” says Daniel Cooney, director. “All I’d known before that time was that there was a photograph of Robert Mapplethorpe and one of Keith Haring. The bulk of the work is in itself an important part of the show, and so is the amount of people whom he photographed.”

“Tub Shots” takes an exhaustive look at what Herron could do with a camera in hand. He filled the frame to capacity, but the composition of his work only lends to a deeper sense of fullness. Each piece feels both personal and unyielding, both private and look-at-me-now-baby.

“I remember quite well meeting Robert Mapplethorpe the day Don delivered his photo print to him,” writes Adam Donaldson Powell, former lover to Don Herron and current blogger. “We were received at the door by one of several gorgeous (mostly naked) young men in S&M gear. Mapplethorpe himself was a god.”

In many ways, the show reads like the ‘70s and ‘80s version of the Greek gods’ Mount Olympus: a tightly-knit community, complete with loving debauchery and radical acceptance of sex in ways that the common man just couldn’t understand. This is, in part, what drew Cooney to Herron’s work.

“I have a particular interest in artists who have been overlooked, and in finding work that has been around for a few decades without having really seen the light of day,” Cooney says.

“I think the people in the photographs are pretty provocative people. Who they are, that’s provocative. There are transgender women in the shots, for example, and in the ‘70s and ‘80s that was unheard of for a lot of people, and that’s really interesting. It’s about learning who people were. A lot of these people were trend setters. They’re the ancestors of people who are creative in the world now.”

Check out this small selection of “Tub Shots” below, or see the show in person at Daniel Cooney Fine Art, 508-526 West 26th Street, #9C, New York, NY, now through November 3, 2018. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m..