Bill Bernstein's "About Face" Is Remarkable

by CLAIRE WILLETT · March 4, 2008

about faces

Before the Bowery Hotel Bar's $18 cocktails completely obfuscate its namesake's seedier side, we recommend heading over to About Face, Bill Bernstein's new photography exhibit at the Bowery Mission Headquarters (Christian Herald building, 132 Madison Ave). Bernstein, best known for his celebrity collaborations (Paul McCartney, Richard Branson, James Carville), does his title justice here, training his lens on the faces of some of the homeless who frequent the Bowery Mission. What is possible to ignore on the street becomes decidedly less so in supersized close-up. There are no biographies, just first names, leaving us to wonder what happened to Samuel --who bears uncanny resemblance, wardrobe and all, to Bill Cosby. When did Christina get her eyebrow pierced? Are Allex and Shimeka together? Why did she die her hair? Quotations are also scattered around the room, though their authors are not. "So you'll remember my story," says Harry, but who is Harry, and what is his story? We left perturbed, and also impressed. The exhibition is free, but its subject manner might put you in a giving (and guilty) mood.