In the introduction to “Privilege,” style writer Glenn O’Brien describes photographer Jessica Craig-Martin as a “master (or perhaps we can still say mistress in this context) of the dark side of the glamour world and society pages.”
The following 67 images of decadent parties, galas, benefits, and industry events from across the world prove this statement to be true. Craig-Martin’s depiction of the elite is an awkwardly cropped, seemingly unglamorous moment. Her work depicts the underbelly of luxury, and yet, it’s still of course mesmerizing to look at.
Originally photographing a majority of these events for publications such as Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar over the span of 20 years, her collection of images for “Privilege” is what was left unpublished. Ahead, 10 images from the book, and Craig-Martin’s reflections on all of those parties.
O’Brien describes Craig-Martin as a “sort of spy” at the events, “camouflaged in her party gear as ‘one of us.'”
“I hide in plain sight, wearing what I call ‘guest drag,'” Craig-Martin told Business Insider.
Although it’s been written that Craig-Martin’s intentional cropping of faces is to protect their identity, she claims this simply isn’t true.
“Craig-Martin’s framing and cropping abandons the famous face in favor of the telling details,” O’Brien writes.
“The crops happened completely organically as I shot the exact frame I wanted. Then I had to figure out, ‘Why am I decapitating people?'” Craig-Martin said.
When she first arrives at events, Craig-Martin says she looks for the fish. “I look to see what the salmon is wearing. You can tell a lot about a party by how the fish is dressed.”
Craig-Martin isn’t interested in making a statement on any one particular subject.
“I’m just not interested in pointing out the foibles of individuals or celebrities. I’m much more interested in the general problem, of which I am also a part. The party is the problem,” she said.
Caligula, bingo night, and Tuesday: the three words Craig-Martin uses to describe the parties depicted in “Privilege.”
“What sense of humor?” she says when asked how her own plays into the work.