Sunday, September 01, 2019

Bruce Gilden, a street photographer

A few videos of Bruce Gilden, a New York photographer. He's known as a street photographer, and a rather invasive one. He gets right up in people's faces and photographs them with a flash. It seems like a sketchy way of working, but he's a member of Magnum, and is Guggenheim fellow, and is respected as a very serious, top level photographer.

This video is from Vice magazine's site, so it's intended to be “edgy”:

This gives a good idea of the level of scrutiny you have to apply to any visual work— and the level of responsibility. These are street photos taken in uncontrolled situations, but he holds the photographers accountable for everything in the frame. I also like his comment about strength in numbers— repetition shows commitment to fully exploring a concept. 

In this video you can see how he works— it's pretty obnoxious, but at least there's no ambiguity. There are ethical issues when photographing people who did not volunteer to model for you, to illustrate whatever statement you want to make about humanity, and Gilden claims to have “no ethics.” But clearly that's not the case as you hear him speak and watch how he talks to people. There are certainly plenty of photographers who actually have no ethics and no empathy for their subjects, for whom this aggressive attitude will backfire. 

Here he gives a little more defense of his way of working, contrasted with a common mentality in this kind of photography that is just about sneaking around and stealing from people.

Here's a sit down interview by another photographer. Interesting that he studied acting with Bill Hickey, with whom my wife also studied. By now you notice that he has a little schtick with how he speaks about himself and his work.

The most important part of this for me is near the end, after 19:30, where they mention younger photographers in it to find fame as gallery photographers: “We're lifers; we do it because we have to do it.”

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