Facing Bruce Gilden

I’m not a great fan of Bruce Gilden, although I do still have a review copy of his ‘Facing New York‘ which Cornerhouse brought out here in 1992. But then I’ve never sold my review copies (plenty of reviewers made more money from doing so than writing reviews)  though I have put some in the bin.

I think I did review it at the time, and it was a work I disliked but I recognised the power of his pictures, although in some respects the book seemed and still seems over-repetitive. They work made me uncomfortable, it seemed too much like being rude to people. Though if you are a New Yorker you are surely used to people being rude to you.

I mention the interview* with him in Vice by Jonnie Craig published a week or two back mainly because I rather like the paragraph at the start about street photography which ends with a definition of what it used to be:

“picture-taking informed by unchecked insanity, spontaneous joy, downtrodden souls, criminal behavior, spewing fire hydrants, and all the other varieties of filth and glory that can be documented by simply walking down an unfamiliar sidewalk.

I think it’s the “unchecked insanity” and “spontaneous joy” that mostly appeal to me, and as Craig states, it is a far cry from the kind of thing that many people who like to call themselves street photographers are now producing.

It’s a fairly short read and I think gives a very clear impression of Gilden and comes with a few of his previously unpublished pictures. You can of course see more of his work on his Magnum pages, and I think he is generally a rather better photographer than ‘Facing New York’ made me think. Or at least there are many pictures that I like in his other work.

Vice seems to attract a particularly poor line in comments, but one of them says “Go look at Kurata Seiji’s book, Flash Up.” I googled a little, but only came up with the cover, which I looked and and thought of Daido Moriyama.  And then Wikipedia tells me that he “practised under Daidō Moriyama in an independent photography workshop in 1976“, as well as that he was born in 1945, perhaps a vintage year for photographers. But the only other pictures I could find were some colour pictures that, at least out of context, could be seen as fairly generic travel work.  So although it also apparently gets a recommendation from Messrs Parr and Badger, I can’t really tell you if ‘Flash Up‘ is worth a look.

*Thanks to American Suburb X to posting a link to this on Facebook.

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