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 Stan Healy  (1918 - 1996)

/ HEE-lee/
About: Stan Healy
 

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Lived/Active: Montana      Known for: photography

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Stan Healy was serious about his work as an art photographer and he considered himself an art photographer first, a photo journalist second.  His journalistic pursuits were the product of Healy trying to find purpose for talents while living in a small lumber town in Montana.  Later, his journalistic lines were to blur and his manipulation of subject to illustrate story carried mundane situations to an artistic plane. 

Healy’s fascination for photography began in his early teens when he began to pose friends, family and self into stylish or candid scenes which he handtinted and manipulated in many fashions, from turning the angle of the negative to solarization of image, in the fashion of Man Ray.  His early work experimented with surrealism, modernism and avant garde subject matter.  Early self portraits show the artist with camera in dark cryptic scenes similar to Edward Steichen self portraits or peering from behind the lens of his Rollei, into a mirror on the wall, ala Man Ray.  These influences were most likely found by Healy in art books and magazines of the day, as there was no art photography movement in the Montana region and Healy was purely a product of the Montana environment.

By 1939, he had become a proficient artist, providing an impressive portfolio to the 1939 World’s Fair Commission, who hired him as an official photographer of the Fair. Interestingly, Healy was to produce two kinds of work during this time period.  His work from this era delves deeply into the Modern skyline of New York and stylistic Modern images of the Fair which he printed into large format and various processes; yet he produced a parallel body of work which he printed in small contact prints which displayed strange images of night characters, dead chickens in store windows and odd street life scenes of Evangelists and beggars.  It seems as if the first group was produced to satisfy demands of a career and the second for self.  This theme of art for self edification begins to become more prevalent and soon the majority of Healy’s work is in this realm.  The bulk of his work, thousands of prints never shown to the public, were made to amuse or satisfy Stan Healy alone.

During WW2, Healy joined the Army Air Corps, and was placed as a photographic War Correspondent.  Little is known of these years, and few images remain.  It is assumed that his work was kept by the government.  This dangerous time spent chronicling the events of the War most certainly sharpened his objective and journalistic skills.  However, upon returning to Missoula, Montana a 1940’s lumber town, it appears that he realized the audience for this work was nonexistent in such a small place.  This realization seems to have affected his work, as his prints and subjects became more and more cryptic and “manipulated”.  The only avenue for application of his work was to become a photographer for the local newspaper.  His journalistic proficiency is active in his crime and accident scenes, wherein his objective is edgy and portrays the event as fresh, tragic and ‘in the moment’.  These images rank amongst the best efforts of realist photographic artists of the time, such as Weegee, Berenice Abbott and Walker Evans. Yet for less exciting shoots, he seemed to have secretly broken from purpose in that he began to manipulate his subjects to pose for his own devices, while still skillfully illustrating the incidents of his journalistic assignments.  On the surface, a parade of children in costume shows them in interesting dress coyly posing on Higgins Avenue, but upon closer examination, their faces are recoiling and expressions twisted, as they glower and recoil from the photographer. At it’s most extreme, his work is that of a puppeteer manipulating willing subjects into performing “dream walks” to satisfy Healy’s hidden purposes. (sexual)

In later years, Healy’s photos became increasingly more bizarre. His images were of death scenes, coroners slabs, and most prevalently, macabre views of Healy acting out bizarre sexual behavior and cross dressing for the camera.  He eventually carried photography for self to the plane where he seemed to have built a box for the photo through which he crawled into the image to become part of the bizarre event itself.  His harsh self portraits become a secret life into which he retreated.  They number into the hundreds.  As the subject of these images, his outsider images, Healy details a pantomime which he carries out for over 30 years. 

He has sold at a number of major auction houses, including Sotheby's London and Heritage Dallas.

Timothy Gordon Life: Heroic Alderman advocating the poor of the Northside.. Politician (ran for Coroner, City Council). Official Photographer 1939 World’s Fair. WW2 AAC photographer. Product of a harsh mother, who punished him by dressing him as a girl (interview with Gary Stemple). Practicing Catholic. Well respected by the city fathers and palled around with Police Departments, city attorney types.

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