At a Cusp of Generations | The Daring Lens-wizard of Studio 54 | Rose Hartman
The ability to commit to our true calling and create the life we envision for ourselves is a key element to our happiness. True visionaries are called those who are able to embrace their becoming with a clear understanding that anything that can appear as an obstacle, it’s also an opportunity. They honor their desires and stepping into a future they intentionally created.
The beloved photographer of a long-lost and much-talked-about era of Studio 54, Ms. Hartman is one of a kind: an eclectic mix of passion, attention to detail and ability to spot that “je ne sais quoi” at a glance along with an astonishing sense of awareness and ability to adapt to the modern world. The age hasn’t slowed her down: her buoyant energy and zest for life are quite obvious and except her petite frame everything is larger than life about her: her wit, spontaneity and ah! that alluring, mysterious personality leaving us desiring to know more.
Rose Hartman always had an innate sense of empowering herself as a woman in a man’s world and made an impact in a field ruled by men, generations before the concept of Women empowerment even existed: “I never took no for an answer and followed my instincts with passion and persistence. I was quite bored with being a school teacher and one day I decided I will change my life and so I did.”
Her photograph of Bianca Jagger riding a white horse at the Studio 54 nightclub at her 30th birthday party put her work on the map. That very moment when Bianca got on a horse was captured candidly by Rose’ exquisite eye and ended up becoming an overnight sensation. We can only imagine how it felt back in the day to be surrounded by the exceptional artists, models and movers and shakers of that era, all of them under one roof having fun without any fear of paparazzi or social media. Those were the times! Studio 54 was then the most wanted party spot in the world, defining the disco era in all its excess and ecstasy: the epicenter of cultural diversity, a place where jet setters and celebrities would mingle with salespeople, starlets, aspiring artists…and that if you were lucky enough to get inside. In today’s terms, the club would be defined as the Hub for eccentric Global Citizens.
In a recent screening of her work Rose walked us through a beautifully documented journey of her photography where we witnessed some of the most extraordinary outfits that marked the short-lived era of Studio 54. The extravagant place was an opportunity to become a free spirit without judgment, to dance the night away, do drugs, make love or simply just be you among the likes of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bianca Jagger, Diane von Fürstenberg, Grace Jones, Norma Kamali, Elton John, etc.
Her innovative spirit and passion for fashion prompted her to become the very first photographer to tap into the “unseen world” of the much-desired industry: backstage at fashion shows documenting those fleeting moments that would ultimately be published in her books Birds Of Paradise: An Intimate View of the New York Fashion World, Incomparable: Women of Style (2012), and Incomparable Couples (2015).
The photographer’s multi-layered life and work made the subject of a beautifully documented feature-length acclaimed film by Otis Mass launched in 2016, The Incomparable Rose Hartman. An introspective testimonial of a woman who from the day one was fearless in her approach and relentless about pursuing her vision, leaving an unmistakable mark in photography. Raw and unfiltered by society rules, unapologetic and persuasive she would not let any detail untapped. Director Ronald Sosinski captured her true identity in a way that leaves no doubt we are witnessing an explosive personality: “Who is she? Is she an artist or is she just an observer? But she is not truly a paparazzi; in a way, she is even more invasive because she waits for that perfect moment when no one is looking.”
What’s next for Rose Hartman: “There is no magic formula. I want to continue to explore the world and stay open to possibilities.” And while her birthday is approaching she is enthusiastically preparing for it. Didn’t we say she was doing photography for over four decades? Well just by looking at her one could only think: life just started with new passions and new photographic adventures and moments. And no one knows better than Rose how to candidly capture those: in her signature authentic and intoxicating manner.