Photo by Joe Santa, Corbis

Photo by Joe Santa, Corbis


Presenter, 2012

“I’m known for taking pictures very close, and the older I get, the closer I get.” —Bruce Gilden

Bruce Gilden says you’re looking at a street photograph if you can smell the street. Gilden’s photos stimulate all the senses. Wandering city streets around the world with a camera in one hand and a flash in the other, he captures explosive black and white images of places and people. He finds the individuals who stand out in a crowd, the ones with stories to tell. At the beach in Coney Island, his subjects are men and women in bathing suits, their bodies sunburned and freckled, skinny and flabby. In Tokyo, he illuminates the city’s homeless, its biker gangs and prostitutes, and members of the Japanese mafia, the yakuza. In Haiti, a place he photographed for more than a decade and to which he returned following the 2010 earthquake, he depicts electrifying scenes of celebration and violence.

In-your-face but also full of heart, Gilden’s photos can be both amusing and intense. “He’s proven that the street is an exotic destination,” says guest curator Vince Musi. “And he’s able to bundle energy into something that, at times, is very static. Even inanimate objects.” One of Gilden’s recent projects focuses on the effects of foreclosures in America. He has traveled to places like Florida, Detroit, and Nevada, documenting the dilapidated homes that families have been forced to abandon. The houses, many of them falling apart and broken-down, reveal the physical and symbolic effects of the mortgage crisis.

Born in 1946 in Brooklyn, Gilden studied sociology but started taking night classes in photography after seeing Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, Blow-Up. He joined Magnum in 1998 and became a full member in 2002. He has won numerous awards, including Ies Murs Artist’s Fellowship and multiple artist’s fellowships from the New York Foundation of the Arts. He has exhibited work all over the world–at the Amador Gallery in New York, Carla Sozzani Gallery in Milan, the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, and more. His photographs are in the collections at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the Royal Photographic Society, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Fogg Art Museum, the National Gallery of Canada; and elsewhere. His many publications include A Beautiful Catastrophe (2005), Coney Island (2002); and Go (2000).