For Mark Arbeit, photography is 'all about light.' And for more than 25 years, he has chased, captured and manipulated light to create a complex and powerful oeuvre that includes portraiture, fashion, landscape, nudes and the artist's studio. Arbeit's pictures capture life as it is today, from his revealing studies of celebrities of the moment such as actors Tom Hanks, Penelope Cruz and Anthony Hopkins, to his snapshots of local kids playing in the surf of his native Hawaii. But Arbeit also maintains a reverence for such photography greats as Edward Weston, May Ray, Irving Penn and Helmut Newton--the last two for whom Arbeit worked as an assistant in the late 1970s. Not only has Arbeit learned from the experts, he regularly pays them homage, whether by applying May Ray's solarization method to a series of nudes or playing with Newton's daring lighting techniques. 'Newton taught me never be afraid to shoot in low light,' says Arbeit. 'It could create something unexpected.
Arbeit chose to bring the female nude back to the atelier when he made ‘The Artist’s Studio’ series. In this he combines the atelier and the female nude and studies both intimately. "This natural light draws the human form so well," he explains. On first glance the women appear to be posing for the work around them, as if Arbeit interrupted an artist at work but closer inspection reveals the women to be mimicking the portraits and sculptures they're surrounded by. "I want to create a balance and harmony between the model and the room, one not overpowering the other," states Arbeit.
Thus, each model is a chameleon, whether perched as a sculpture on a pedestal, or literally wrapped in an artist's canvas. She's a muse after the fact -- call it still life imitating art.