Actor Dylan McDermott Shows His Secret Movie Set Photographs at New York Pop-Up Show
McDermott took pictures on location around the world.
Last night, Dylan McDermott, star of stage and screen for roughly 30 years, presented “Street Life,” a pop-up exhibition of his little-seen photography at occasional art venue the New York Edition hotel.
The actor took up photography on the set of his very first film, Hamburger Hill, which was shot in the Philippines in 1986, and has since taken his camera around the world to Africa, India, Singapore, Miami, Los Angeles, and Barcelona, among other far-flung destinations. McDermott also shoots when he’s on set, capturing his co-stars at work behind the scenes as he did during the filming of the television series American Horror Story.
The work has certain cinematic qualities, but McDermott doesn’t see it as an extension of his acting career. “They’re very separate, actually,” he told artnet News at the pop-up exhibition. McDermott allows that some roles can be very personal, but “it’s somebody else’s script, somebody else directing.”
By comparison, “there’s no one to edit” his photographs—although McDermott did get some input from fiancée and former Stalker co-star Maggie Q, who helped him select which photos to show at Edition. “This is more a piece of me,” he said.
Some of McDermott’s most striking photos were taken on trips with his mother, playwright and feminist activist Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. When Ensler helped found City of Joy, a safe house in the Congo for “women who were raped and had no where to go,” McDermott attended the opening, camera in hand.
The actor also accompanied Ensler for a similar trip to Kenya, where he witnessed a traditional rain dance. “It was a sunny day, and an hour later the sky opened up. They fell to their knees and started crying,” McDermott recalled, pointing to a tightly cropped shot of a Kenyan woman who is clearly overcome with emotion.
McDermott’s quick to downplay his technical skills, hoping that instead he’s captured something meaningful about the moment. “I’m a very emotional person,” he admits. “I want you to feel something.”
In that sense, the photos are voyeuristic—McDermott sometimes describes “stealing” a photograph, like a stunning shot of a fully veiled Indian woman sitting by a canal—but not in an invasive, predatory way.
Not that everyone wants their photo taken: Just this week, McDermott admitted, a guy in Washington Square Park told him to “get lost.” In situations like that, he’s not above throwing a potential subject a few bucks to help them relax and get more comfortable with having their picture taken.
Of course, when people recognize McDermott from his acting roles, which include seven seasons of the television series The Practice, two of American Horror Story, and films such as Steel Magnolias, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, they sometimes become more comfortable with being photographed. “Maybe I can get some entry into places where other people can’t,” McDermott said.
For the most part, however, he prefers to remain a fly on the wall, an anonymous figure behind the camera lens. “I just like to disappear and find people and take their picture.”
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.