Fine Art photographer, art educator, author, photographic historian and master Platinotype printer, Tom Shillea recently had twenty of his platinum / palladium photographs from his 'Magenta Night' project placed into the permanent collection of the George Eastman House International Museum
of Photography and Film in Rochester, New York. The George Eastman House is the oldest museum of photography and the repository of some of the wor lds most renowned photographic collections.
During Shilleas graduate studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the late 1970s he was introduced to the work of Photo-Secession photographers during an internship in the Exhibitions Department at the George Eastman House. He also learned how to make platinum prints, the medium of choice of the Pictorialist photographers. These two experiences would prove seminal to his work as a photographer and artist throughout his career.
Before leaving Rochester, Shillea completed two photographic projects, one titled The Diva and the other Magenta Night. These two bodies of work are about perceptions of beauty-unconventional, a-stereotypical beauty. The photographs are quintessentially Shillea- powerful, revealing portraits taken with a large format view camera and printed on hand coated platinum/palladium paper. The portraits are about contradictions, personality, performance artists and the challenging of norms. Shillea states, "To give one a point of reference the photographs were recorded ten years after the Stonewall riots on Christopher Street in NYC and a year after the film, 'La Cage Aux Folles' had been released. This was a pivotal time in the U. S. when drag artists gained popularity and even became en vogue and the gay liberation movement had made significant progress.
To me, this is important work with an important message. The photographs fit into the George Eastman House collection on so many levels. The images speak to the history of the photographic medium in the context of my studies and work at the George Eastman House and RIT, the history of the city of Rochester, and most importantly the history of the LGBTQ community in Rochester during the late 1970s.
Other examples of Shillea's photographs are also included in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian Museum) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others.