One Should Not Look at Anything - A Photography Show by Rachel Stern

Posted by Gianna Pergamo on

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit Rachel Stern’s solo show “One Should Not Look at Anything” at the Baxter St Camera Club of New York in NYC.

Photographs from One Should Not Look at Anything by Rachel Stern

It was a beautiful show comprising over 70 photographs, the majority of which are portraits, as well as some still lifes. Stern built elaborate sets for each photograph, and incorporated text in camera. Many of the portraits are of her friends and family (there’s an especially good one of me!).

Photographs from One Should Not Look at Anything by Rachel Stern

Photographs from One Should Not Look at Anything by Rachel Stern

Photographs from One Should Not Look at Anything by Rachel Stern

The entire exhibit is hung over a repeat of ampersands.

Ampersand Wallpaper from One Should Not Look at Anything by Rachel Stern

From the Baxter St Camera Club Site:

“Baxter St is proud to present One Should Not Look at Anything, a solo exhibition of photographs by artist Rachel Stern. The presentation is curated by Dr. Ksenia M. Soboleva, Baxter St’s 2022 Guest Curatorial Initiative Recipient, and will comprise over 70 new works. Stern’s elaborately arranged, maximalist portraits incorporate text from Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play, Salome, to create meditations on contemporary notions of desire.

Rachel Stern’s practice is one of translation between artistic modes of expression. She is concerned with the intersection of beauty and power and turns to the tableaux and the theater’s proscenium in order to create a dialogue between the histories of literature, drama, and photography. Stern incorporates kitsch and leftist aesthetics while drawing on Wilde’s narrative examination of the destructive potential of unrequited desire.

As Soboleva writes in a text that will accompany the exhibition: “As a self-identified fat person moving through a fatphobic world, Stern has often felt excluded from the experience of desirability. Continuing her studio practice of creating elaborate sets to stage her photographs, the artist spelled out Salome’s line in letters cut from hand marbled paper, and attached the letters to a sheet of plexiglass placed between the camera and her lavish set. She then posed behind this veil of language, becoming both the desiring subject and the object of desire, both the looker and the one being looked at. Stern’s photographs offer a translation of Wilde’s play into visual language, meditating on the field of vision as both one of desire and of danger.”

Support for Baxter St’s Guest Curatorial Program is provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation."

There’s also a great write up of the show in The Brooklyn Rail.

If you are in NYC, you have until July 29, 2023 to see it! 


  • Hello Gianna, This is Such intense melding of beauty and creativity. I love this art, What a powerful display! Thank you for posting this.

    Sal on

  • Hi, and thank you, Gianna, for posting images from Rachel’s show. Her insights are certainly stimulating, offering insights and good thinking!

    Margot Green on

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