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Street Face

about Bruce Gilden

Best known for his black and white street photography taken with a flash at arm’s length from his subjects, Bruce Gilden brazenly pursues photography that tries to bare souls, ready or not. He once described the way he photographs as “flash in one hand and jumping at people”, which is kind of like striding purposefully through the crowds and suddenly thrusting his camera into the faces of unsuspecting subjects. A very old-school New York style of photography: tough, confrontational, literally in-your-face and, after 40 years of doing it, he is a master of sorts. You can love his work or really hate it, it doesn’t take too long to think about it, the feelings are immediate.

One of his latest works, Face, gets even closer — but in colour. This is a catalogue of human grotesques that, asserts Chris Klatell in a short essay in the book, is both “a political gesture”, to acknowledge the disenfranchised, and a sustained self-portrait. To Klatell, Bruce “shares their teeth, their stubble, their scrapes, their blemishes, their fear of death. In the women’s scowls, in their sternly ambiguous glance, he sees his own mother’s face before she killed herself”.

“I always liked the dark side of life. I like things that aren’t considered average. I’ve always liked the underdog, people who aren’t on top of the heap. I identify with these people in my pictures, because I’m actually photographing myself. The people in my pictures interest me. I like them, and they motivate me. There are several people who do portraits in New York but they let the people perform for them. I don’t like that. I’m the one who’s the director. I’m being truthful, ok? I like intensity. I like to see their soul.

Whatever Bruce’s intentions and our feelings in front of his work, we can’t say we are not a bit complicit, as viewers — and consumers — of his images. Even if we’re trying not to see them, like they’re invisible, they’re just part of our journey.

www.brucegilden.com

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Thanks
www.theguardian.com
www.gupmagazine.com

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