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Bruce Gilden on the Other Side of The Camera

What Coney Island mobsters have to do with Haiti and the smell of New York City streets.

Bruce Gilden is easily the most iconic street photographer of our time, particularly notorious for his merciless and indiscriminate use of the flash. Rich and raw at the same time, his portraits live inhabit the strange and mesmerizing world of orchestrated spontaneity.

This short WNYC documentary about Gilden and his approach to street photography reveals as much about his creative angle as it does about his delightfully prickly and irreverent personality as the tables take a rare turn and put the master of urban voyeurism in front of rather than behind the camera.

I use flash a lot because flash helps me visualize the feelings of the city — the energy, the stress, the anxiety that you find here.” ~ Bruce Gilden

Gilden’s photographic bluntness is beautifully balanced by his more subtle but no less meticulous eye for the intricate character of the city, its nooks and subcultures and wonderfully awkward idiosyncrasies.

If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, then it’s a street photograph. You feel like you’re really there.” ~ Bruce Gilden

Gilden’s photoessays and portfolio on the Magnum Archive (the recent sale of which is another fascinating story) are also a treasure worth ogling.

And while all of his books are an absolute must-read for photography and cultural anthropology enthusiasts alike, we find the 2002 Haiti particularly powerful in light of the recent tragedy — a graphic portrait of all that was and a surreal prophet of all that was to be.

Published March 16, 2010




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