Legendary lensman Art Shay finally has his first New York exhibit. “The Photography of Art Shay – A Lifetime of Images” opens today at the Morrison Hotel Gallery Loft in SoHo, and runs through Sunday, April 6.
“I'm a New Yorker and I never had an exhibition here,” said the Bronx native. “I've had exhibitions in Chicago, where I live, in Paris, California, Florida. But I never had an exhibition in my own hometown.”
The renowned photographer served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II – flying 30 bomber missions and 22 aid missions – before becoming a writer at Life magazine, then picking up a camera and becoming a prominent freelance photographer in 1951.
Since then, he's photographed U.S. Presidents, Hollywood stars, and music legends. Some of his more celebrated shots include the Rat Pack, Buddy Guy, and Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan.
Of the 40 - 50 images in the show (he was unsure of the exact number), Shay spoke fondly of some favorites.
“The prize of the litter is this famous picture of the Rat Pack, shot in '61,” Shay said. “Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin. That one is very popular with collectors.”
Another is a photo he took of The Supremes backstage in Motown, in 1965. “Rolling Stone called that one of the 'Fifty Great Pictures of the Rock and Roll Era,'” he proudly said.
Before capturing famous musicians on film, Shay was a young musician. “I played the bugle and trumpet, and my partner on the trumpet in high school was a kid named Miltie Rajonsky, who turned out to become Shorty Rogers, the great jazz trumpeter,” he recalled. The two earned $1 each on Saturdays, playing “Taps” at World War I veterans' funerals.
Prints of Shay's iconic images – silver gelatin and archival digital color – are available in sizes from 11x14 to 30x40, with prices ranging from $1,700 to $4,000.