Photographer and former Andy Warhol muse Editta Sherman spent 60 years photographing models, artists, writers, and other local celebrities during her residency in the Carnegie Hall Artist Studios, earning her the moniker the "Duchess of Carnegie Hall." Now, the New-York Historical Society is celebrating Sherman's legacy with a retrospective on her work.
Starting this weekend, the museum will showcase 65 of Sherman's portraits as part of their show The Duchess of Carnegie Hall: Photographs by Editta Sherman, with featured subjects including actor Yul Brynner, country star June Carter Cash, authors Betty Smith and Pearl S. Buck, and Tilda Swinton. The exhibition hangs in the museum's new Center for Women’s History, a fitting spot for a photographer who earned her stripes in a male-dominated field while raising her children on her own.
"In her own way, she’s a female trailblazer," NYHS curator Marilyn Kushner told the Post. "She succeeded in a man’s world. And while there were definitely other women taking photographs [in mid-20th-century New York], she did it while supporting her family."
Sherman, born Editta Rinaolo in Philadelphia in 1912, married sound engineer Harold Sherman in 1935; he died in 1954, leaving Sherman with five young children. By then, though, the Shermans had taken up residency in an artist studio located above Carnegie Hall, and she managed to make a name for herself by photographing some of the famous residents and guests who flitted in and out of the neighboring studios—Christopher Plummer, Marcel Marceau, and Joe DiMaggio were among some of Rinaolo's portrait subjects.
Later in life, Sherman became a tenants' rights advocate, when the Carnegie Hall tried to evict rent-controlled tenants in the aughts. She died in 2013, at age 101.
Sherman was also good friends with famed street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, who died last year—he's the one who gave Sherman her "Duchess of Carnegie Hall" nickname. There's only a small portrait of Sherman and Cunningham on display as part of the exhibition, though some of Cunningham's other personal items were donated to the N-Y Historical Society in February.
The Duchess of Carnegie Hall: Photographs by Editta Sherman will be on display though October 15th.