Guy Mendes: Cohorts
This modest survey of portraits by Guy Mendes documents a network of his friendships and the range of creative practitioners he sought out to spend time with and visit. The photographs are infused with a sense of warmth and trust, exemplifying the statement that Mendes remembers his teacher James Baker Hall telling him: “A portrait is given as much as it is taken.”
In discussing the occasions when he was able to make pictures with some of Kentucky’s most acclaimed artists, writers, and teachers, Mendes said, “Each visit to a home or studio was a small celebration, an opportunity to see their work and learn more about them.” Images of Wendell Berry, Jay Bolotin, Guy Davenport, Harlan Hubbard, Bobbie Ann Mason, Ed McClanahan, Ann Tower, Jonathan Williams, and others reveal Mendes’s precise eye for his subject’s body language and sense of self. His compositions frame them in domestic and outdoor environments in natural light, comfortable in the act of being photographed.
Mendes has work in collections including the New Orleans Museum of Art, University of Kentucky Art Museum, University of Louisville Photographic Archives, Churchill Downs Racetrack, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Maker’s Mark Distillery, and Fidelity Investments. His books include Local Light (1976), Light At Hand (1986), both published by Gnomon Press, and 40/40—Forty Years Forty Portraits (2010), and Walks To The Paradise Garden (2019), published by Institute 193. He was a writer, producer and director at KET, Kentucky’s statewide PBS network from 1973 to 2008, and currently teaches film photography at UK’s School of Art and Visual Studies.
Image: Guy Mendes, Captain Kentucky, a.k.a. Ed Mclanahan, Lexington, KY, 1972, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist.