Girls Sunbathing from the Domestic Rituals series

Mary Frey (American, b. 1948)
1979–83
Currently on view
MediumGelatin silver print
Dimensions13 3/4 × 17 3/4 inches
CreditGift of the artist, 1984
© Mary Frey
Accession Number84.22

With a high horizon and a low perspective, Mary Frey’s Girls Sunbathing makes the everyday monumental. The two young women, their sleepy heads turned away from each other, are a study of opposing harmonies: one dozes on her stomach, straight-legged, the other lays on her back, left knee bent. Frey’s Domestic Rituals series took commonplace events, presenting them like old-master paintings.The curvilinear forms and soft diagonals of the sunbathers draw the eye to the pair of lifeguard stands in the center back, anchoring everything in this tightly-composed photo to a one-point perspective.

Fascinated with the role of documentary images in modern culture, Frey began the Domestic Rituals series after getting her MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 1979. As she described, “the pictures, which have a quasi-documentary look about them, resemble a kind of tableau-vivant.” During her four-year project, she won the first of two photography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1984, she exhibited them at the Hudson River Museum. In The New York Times, William Zimmer described how, through Frey’s lens, “we are always brought back to earth by a specific, though universal, incident.”

Exhibition History