Before the Camera (1991)

Artist’s Statement

Established long before the advent of the camera, the conventions of the representation of the female nude in art have grown, over the centuries, to seem quite natural. Not surprisingly, practitioners of fine art photography have, for the most part, conformed to and upheld these traditions. This project directly addresses such conventions.

I have studied a dozen famous nude photographs of women made by well-known male photographers, and I have faithfully and earnestly reconstructed these images, except I have positioned myself before the camera. By rendering obvious the function of gender difference in how these photographs are perceived and by undermining the traditional, hierarchal roles of viewer and viewed, the project attempts to, with its curiously reverent irreverence, cripple the genre.

The artist would like to thank The Canada Council for the Arts for their support of this project.

Before the Camera: Exhibition history

Solo (or duo) shows:

2021 Becoming Photography, an exhibition in two venues: Expression, Saint-Hyacinthe, QC & Plein sud, Longueuil, QC (publication)

2015 CLAMP, New York

1996 Galerie Barbara Farber, Amsterdam
Sighting the Male, Latitude 53 Gallery, Edmonton

1995 Centre Vu, Québec

1994 Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (now part of the National Gallery of Canada), Ottawa

1993 Artspeak, Vancouver

1992 Galerie 101, Ottawa
Houston Center for Photography, Houston

Group shows:

2022 CAMP@CLAMP, CLAMP, New York

2021 Expected: Clandestine – The Photo Collection of Pedro Slim, Cobra Museum of Modern Art, Amstelveen, Netherlands

2017 The Most Beautiful Part, Museo de Arte Moderno,  in the framework of the FotoMéxico biennale, Mexico City

2015 Percepciones: Hombre y Mujer en la historia de la fotographia, Fondación Canal, Madrid

2014 Performance: Contemporary Photography from the Douglas Nielsen Collection, Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona

2013 The Gender Show, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York

2006 Silver, Houston Center for Photography, Houston

2005 Edward Weston: Perspectives on Collections, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

2004 Les 20 ans du CIAC, La Biennale de Montréal, Montréal

2003 essence/image, University of Waterloo Art Gallery, Waterloo, Ontario

2002 20th  Anniversary Exhibit, Houston Center for Photography, Houston

2001 Disclosures, Calvin College Center Art Gallery, Grand Rapids, Michigan

1999 The Full Monty, Houk Gallery, New York

1998 Play It Again, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Amsterdam
Recycling Art History, Pittsburgh Arts Center, Pittsburgh

1997 Promote/Exhibit/Document, Galerie 101, Ottawa
Utopia/Dystopia, Floating Gallery, Winnipeg
Fun With Dick and Jane, Clement Gallery, Toledo, Ohio

1996 Les cent jours d’art contemporain, Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal
Photography Room, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta
Prospect 96 – Photography in Contemporary Art, Schirn Kunsthalle & Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt
Photography in the 1990s, Wright State University Art Gallery, Dayton

1995 Several Exceptionally Good Recently Acquired Pictures IX, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
The Pressing of Flesh, Gallery 44 & Gallery TPW, Toronto

1994 The Body / Le Corps, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin
The Body / Le Corps, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

1993 The Pressing of Flesh, Floating Gallery, Winnipeg
Interior Dialogues, Pyramid Art Center, Rochester

1992 Phototropism, New Works Gallery, Chicago
Politics of Gender, Niagara Artists Centre, St. Catharines, Ontario
Body Takes, Gallery TPW, Toronto
Rated X, Neikrug Photographica, New York

Before the Camera: Bibliography

2023   Alasdair Foster, “In Photography,” Interview on Talking Pictures website, Brisbane, Australia.

2022   Joan Fontcuberta, “Que penserait Walter Benjamin de Photoshop ?” Manifeste pour une poste-photographie, Actes Sud, Arles, France, 2022, p.16-17.
Christina Natlacen, “Chuck Samuels: Becoming Photography,” EIKON International Magazine for Photography and Media Art, #118, Vienna, 2022, p.86.
Carole Coen, “Huitième art en « je »,” Fisheye Magazine , No. 51, Paris, January-February 2022, p. 110-111.

2021   Chuck Samuels, Becoming Photography, publication with texts by Joan Fontcuberta & Mona Hakim, co-edited by Kerber Verlag, Berlin, Expression, Saint-Hyacinthe & Plein Sud, Longueuil, 2021
Sylvain Campeau, “Chuck Samuels. Devenir la photogaphie,” Ciel variable, no. 118, Automne/Fall 2021, Montréal, p. 93-94.
Charlotte Doyen, “Oeuvre de septembre,” Musée de la Photographie website, Charleroi, September 1, 2021, n.p.
Robert Enright, “The Man with the Moving Camera,” Border Crossings, Vol. 40, No. 2, Issue 157, August 2021, p. 100-111.
Gabrielle Sarthou, “Devenir la photographie. Chuck Samuels,” Espace art actuel, No. 129, Automne/Fall 2021, p. 109.
Sevia Pellissier, “Chuck Samuels. Devenir la photographie,” Vie des arts, No. 263, Vol. LXVI, Montréal, Été 2021, p. 89.
Joan Fontcuberta, “Històries i contrahistòries,” El món d’ahir, No. 19, Barcelona, Summer 2021, p. 50-69.
Donald Bracket, “How to Throw Your Voice Visually: Becoming Photography,” Critics At Large (, May 26, 2021, n.p.
Jérome Delgado, “Tête de star,” Le Devoir (Le D Magazine), April 17, 2021, p. 23.
Christian Gattinoni, “Portrait de l’homme photographique dans l’histoire de ses chef-d’oeuvres,”, 24 mars, 2021, n.p.

2018   Ann Thomas, “Conversations in Time,” The Extended Moment, ed Ann Thomas, Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, 5 Continents Editions, Milan, 2018, p. 26 – 47.

2017   James Oles, “Beautiful Parts,” The Most Beautiful Part, ed. James Oles, Mexico City, 2017, p. 18 – 35 & 146 – 147.

2015 Francisco Carpio, “En Busca des Hemisferio Perdidio,” Percepciones: Hombre y Mujer en la historia de la fotographia, ed. Fondación Canal, Madrid, 2015, p. 21 – 37.
Christian Gattinoni, “Chuck Samuels rentre dans l’histoire,”, 29 mai 2015, s.p.
Vince Aletti, “Chuck Samuels,” The New Yorker, March 16, 2015, p. 6.
Loring Knoblauch, “Chuck Samuels: Before the Camera @CLAMP,” Collector, March 20, 2015, n.p.
Ed Barnas, “Second-Hand Nudes,” The New York Photo, March 19, 2015, n.p.
Julie Grahame, “Chuck Samuels: Before the Camera,”, March 24, 2015, n.p.
Ellyn Kail, “Male Photographer Plays the Part of Famous Female Nudes from Art History (NSFW)” feature, March 27, 2015, n.p.

2013 Kerri Macdonald, “Examining Identity, Gender Image by Gender Image,” Lens (New York Times Blog), June 13, 2013

2012 Javier Ugarte Torras, “Yasumasa Morimura, un Crisol Cultural,” Info-arte, Revista digital Web site, Madrid, n.p.

2009 Sylvain Campeau, “Apparaître et Leurrer,” PROTÉE, Vol. 37, No. 1  Chicoutimi, p. 47 – 58.

2008 Thierry Gervais & Gaëlle Morel, La Photographie, Larousse, Paris, p. 229

2006 Pere Formiguera, “It’s Such a Beautiful Photograph it Looks like a Photograph,” Exit Magazine, “REMAKES,” No. 21, Madrid, p.62 – 67.

2005 Alison Nordström, “Weston & the Post-Modernists” Image, the Magazine of George Eastman House, Vol. 43, No. 1, Spring 2005, p. 16-21.
Sylvain Campeau, “Autoportraits dans la photographie canadienne contemporaine,” CV Ciel Variable, No. 67, June 2005, p. 35.
Céline Mayrand, “Se révéler, disparaître,” AUTOPORTRAITS dans photographie canadienne contemporaine, ed. André Gilbert, Éditions J’ai VU, Québec, p. 36 – 42.
Ellen Corin, “Au-delà du miroir, l’échappée du regard,” AUTOPORTRAITS dans photographie canadienne contemporaine,  p. 64 – 73.

2003 Penny Cousineau-Levine, Faking Death: Canadian Art Photography and the Canadian Imagination, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montréal, p.72 & 175.

2001 Nina Levitt, “Before the Camera – An Essay on the Works of Chuck Samuels,” function, Vol. 3, 2001, Toronto, p. 26 – 28.

1999 Frédérique Doyon, “Poésie nomade,” La Presse, September 24, 1999, Montréal, p. B5.
Vince Aletti, “Short List,” Village Voice, August 10, 1999, New York, p. 89.

1998 Linda Roodenburg, “Humor, ironie en perfectie,” Play It Again Catalogue, Praemium Erasmianum,Amsterdam, p. 16-19.
Deborah Bright, “Introduction,” The Passionate Camera, ed. Deborah Bright, Routledge, New York, p. 297.
Vicky A. Clark, “Recycling Art History,” Recycling Art History Catalogue, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, p.12-13.

1996 Jennifer Couëlle, “Chuck Samuels,” CVphoto Contemporary Photography, No. 37, Winter 1996, Montréal, p. 33.
Bernard Lamarche, “Les corps étrangers,” Le Devoir, October 27, 1996, Montréal, p. D8.
Margareta Friesen, “Prospect 96: Photographie in der Gegenwartskunst,” Camera Austria, No. 55/1996, Graz, Austria, p. 68-70.
Peter Weiermair, “Introduction,” Prospect 96 – Photography In Contemporary Art, Edition Stemmle, Zurich, March 1996, p. 10-14.
Von Konstanze Crwell, “Im Zitat des Zitats rückt die Fotografie von der Wirklichkeit ab” Art ds Kunstmagazin, Vol. 3, 1996, p. 94 – 97.

1995 Debbie O’Rourke, “The Pressing of Flesh,” Artword, Fall 1995, p. 8-11.
Robin Laurence, “Singing the Body Eclectic,” Border Crossings, Vol. 14, No. 2, April 1995, p. 62-65.
Nina Levitt, “Chuck Samuels – Before the Camera,” Before the Camera Feuillet, Centre Vu, Québec, Québec, n.p.

1994 Hans-Micheal Herzog, “The Body / Le Corps,” The Body / Le Corps, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, p. 6-15.
Peter Weiermair, “Brian Piitz, Chuck Samuels, Evergon, Jean-Jacques Ringuette,” The Body / Le Corps, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, p. 36-43.

1993 Monika Gagnon, “Body Takes,” C Magazine, No. 36, Winter 1993, p. 60-61.
Lisa Mark, “Curator’s Statement,” The Pressing of Flesh Catalogue, Floating Gallery Winnipeg, Manitoba, n.p.

1992 Nina Levitt, “Body Takes,” Body Takes Catalogue, Toronto Photographers Workshop, Toronto, Ontario, n.p

Before the Camera: Images published

2015 Percepciones: Hombre y Mujer en la historia de la fotographia, ed. Fondación Canal, Madrid, p. 108, 110, 112 & 114.

2006 Exit Magazine, “REMAKES,” No. 21, February, Madrid, p. 31 – 32, p. 63 – 67, p. 82 – 83.

2005 Image, the Magazine of George Eastman House, Vol. 43, No. 1, Spring 2005, p.20.

2004 Les 20 ans du CIAC, ed. Colette Tougas, Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montréal, p.183.
AUTOPORTRAITS dans photographie canadienne contemporaine, ed. André Gilbert, Éditions J’ai VU, Québec, p. 48  & 49.
NAKED, ed. Lars Oscenda, Feierabend Verlag Publishers, Berlin, p. 228 & 229.

2003 Faking Death: Canadian Art Photography and the Canadian Imagination, ed. Penny Cousineau-Levine, McGill-Queens University Press, Montréal, p.174.

2002 Nudes Index, ed. Eva Mur, Feierabend Verlag Publishers, Germany.

2001 Ecce Homo, Vertigo Publishers, Barcelona, p.126 -131.
Musée virtuel de la photographie québécoise,

2000 Nerve / The New Nude, ed. Genevieve Field, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, p. 111-112.

1999 Nerve, web magazine, December 24 & October 8,

1998 The Passionate Camera, ed. Deborah Bright, Routledge, New York, p. 301.
Musée virtuel de la photographie québécoise, CD-ROM, Vox Populi, Montréal.

1997 Photographers Encyclopaedia International: 1839 to the Present, Book & CD-ROM, Hermance, Switzerland.
Spot, Vol. XVI, No. 2, Fall, Houston, Cover.

1995 Photography in the 1990’s: Fifty Portfolios, CD-ROM, Wright State University, Dayton.

1994 exposure, “Sex Wars: Photography on the Frontlines,” Vol. 29, No. 2/3, Dallas, Cover & p. 10 – 11.

1993 Libido, Vol. 5, No. 1, Chicago, Cover & p. 24 – 29.

Before the Camera: Acquisitions

2013 Worcester Art Museum, Worcester (Massachusetts)

2011 George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester (New York)

2009 Le Musée de la photographie, Charleroi (Belgium)

2000 Le Musée secret, Montréal

1995 Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (now part of the National Gallery of Canada), Ottawa

1993 La Maison européenne de la photographie, Paris

1985 – Present Various private collections in Amsterdam, Arlington (MA), Atlanta, Berkeley, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Montréal, Reno, San Francisco, Toronto and Tucson.

Before the Camera: Exhibition and edition details

The exhibit consists of twelve photographs, all printed, matted and framed similarly, if not identically, to the originals. They are hung in a linear, semi-historical, pseudo-chronological fashion. Each photograph is titled with reference to the original it is reconstructing (After Man Ray, After Bellocq, etc.). Adhered to the wall next to each photograph is a small museum-style card, complete with the information generally found on such cards (name of piece, date, process, etc.). Ideally, Before the Camera occupies 12 or more metres / 40 or more feet of running wall space but could be crammed into approximately 7 metres / 22 feet, if absolutely necessary.

The complete set of twelve framed exhibition prints are packed into two wooden crates, one being 77.5 x 97.5 x 30.5 cm x 45 kg (30½ x 38½ x 12 inches x 100 lbs) and the other being 77.5 x 97.5 x 28 cm x 41 kg (30½ x 38½ x 11 inches x 90 lbs), for a combined total weight of 86 kg /190 lbs.

Before the Camera is a series of twelve photographs available as an edition of twenty prints of each image. These include one set of exhibition prints, fourteen prints to be sold individually and five to be sold as complete sets.

Before the Camera: Press

Before the Camera: Inquiries

In the U.S.A. please contact CLAMP in New York. In Canada or elsewhere, please contact the artist.