'Metamorphosis by Elizabeth Heyert' an exhibition and book about power of transformation
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'Metamorphosis by Elizabeth Heyert' an exhibition and book about power of transformation
Bound #3. Copyright Elizabeth Heyert.

NEW YORK, NY.- Known for her groundbreaking photographs of the interior lives of others, most famously The Sleepers and her controversial series of postmortem portraits The Travelers, American fine art photographer Elizabeth Heyert delves once again into the deepest emotional landscapes of strangers in Metamorphosis, a provocative, and visionary new exhibition and book about the power of transformation.

Heyert takes the viewer on a fascinating journey into the transcendent worlds of her subjects who after being hypnotized in her studio by a trained hypnotherapist are then photographed naked, acting out childhood memories or transforming themselves emotionally into animals, birds, or other creatures unique to their subconscious fantasies.

In her conversation with journalist and historian Lesley M. M. Blume, Heyert explains why photographing her subjects without clothes was important. “I felt like it was hard enough to witness somebody in a trancelike state without getting distracted by clothing … I wanted it to be primal, and down to the bare bones. It was a lot to ask of someone, but I had a surprising number of willing subjects.” She chose to print the photos as cyanotypes, feeling that the deep rich blues would create a non-specific yet evocative environment.

Then, as a stunning and extreme counterpoint, Heyert also photographed people who attain transcendence by allowing themselves to be mummified and rendered immobile. Unlike the subjects under hypnosis, who are naked in every sense of the word, the wrapped bodies are intentionally hidden and demobilized so the person within remains a mystery, with their profound inner experiences left to the imagination of the viewer. Dramatic mural-size analog black and white photographs, rendered in the book in exquisite tritone, along with rarely seen color photogravures, invite our understanding of the humanity within the layered, sculptural beauty.

 Heyert told Blume,“I found it intriguing that, once bound, people would sometimes go to a deep place within themselves, a trancelike state, called subspace, where the conscious mind relaxes, and the subconscious becomes predominant. … I imagined this approach as the yin to the yang of hypnosis, two wildly different ways to access the subconscious. I do think that’s an important thing to understand about the project. It’s not about one practice or the other, and how different they are. It’s all about transformation.”

“I’m interested in what makes up our essence as human beings and what the person on the outside sees. If people are placed in a safe emotional space, often a complex interior world will reveal itself - Elizabeth Heyert

Elizabeth Heyert is an American photographer known for experimental portrait projects. Formerly a world-renowned architectural photographer, she established her reputation in the art world with her groundbreaking series The Sleepers, The Travelers, The Narcissists, and The Bound. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Beinecke Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale University, and numerous private collections. Her books include The Travelers, from her iconic series of post-mortem photographs, The Sleepers, The Narcissists, The Outsider, Metropolitan Places, an anthology of 20th century architecture and design, and The Glasshouse Years, a history of 19th century portrait photography.

Colm Tóibín is the author of ten novels, including The Master and Brooklyn, and two collections of stories. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. He is the Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University.

Lesley M. M. Blume is an award-winning journalist, historian, and The New York Times best-selling author. She has profiled the lives and careers of many artists, photographers, and writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Jackson Pollock, Truman Capote, David Hockney, Irving Penn, Lee Miller, Françoise Gilot, and John Hersey. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Vogue, National Geographic, and many other publications.


The hypnosis photographs are all printed as cyanotypes, a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Originally discovered in the 1840’s, cyanotype was one of the first non-silver methods of reproducing photographic images. Like many modern artists Heyert was drawn to the extraordinary beauty and richness of the blue color, which enabled her to convey layers of emotion in an otherworldly, abstract way. Cyanotypes are made by placing a negative directly onto a hand-coated piece of watercolor paper, with no enlargement possible, then exposing it to light. The final cyanotypes were printed with 30 x 40 inch black and white negatives, created digitally from her original 8 x 10 inch color negatives.

Daniel Cooney Fine Art
Metamorphosis by Elizabeth Heyert - An exhibition and book about the power of transformation
February 29th, 2024 - April 20th, 2024

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