Bruce Gilden was my original inspiration for getting into street photography. Five years ago his brash New York style seemed so foreign to me an innocent New Zealander and he seemed to capture the characters of New York like no other photographer ever has.
Now that I’ve moved from London to New York to work for Manhattan-based venture capital firm SeedInvest, I’m rediscovering my love of Bruce Gilden’s street photography.
His style of jumping in front of people with a flash is very aggressive, and I’m not sure that I could do it myself, but it certainly does capture some amazing expressions. The slightly surprised looks that he elicits cut through the monotone expressions that people adopt when walking around big cities like New York.
His closeness to the subject and the intensity of the flash often mean that Bruce Gilden captures the slightly ugly side of a person’s expression or outfit. To me, that’s not a bad thing as it captures something more real than the fully put together personas that most New Yorkers try and portray.
His early work work has a totally gritty look to it and he seems to capture the rough essence of New York. Even when he’s not shooting with a flash up close, his work is still uniquely New York. There’s something distinctly New York about the texture and grime that he captures.
He occasionally runs street photography workshops, so I’m going to be keeping an eye out for the chance to learn directly from the master himself.
His new book Face moves away from the “surprise portrait” style into more personal street photography portraits. But this has allowed him to get really up close and personal to capture people who you wouldn’t otherwise see in a studio portrait. Bruce Gilden continues to inspire me to be a better photographer and a better observer of the characters around every corner in New York.
I say this as someone how often argues for the freedom to photograph anyone in public – I am made uncomfortable by Gilden’s images. He created a niche for himself, and I love his pictures from a street photographer’s point of view, but when I contemplate the subjects as fellow humans I consider some to be manipulative and voyeuristic. I do wonder how many of the subjects of his new portraits knew the amount of exposure the images would get and just how they would look too? I’ve come across so called “street photographers” posting on the internet who have posted pictures of vulnerable people with mocking commentary. Were those photos inspired by Gilden?
Photography is neither cruel or kind in itself, photographer’s can be. Just a thought….He used to be a “hero” of mine and his images helped me be confident to get up closer….just that over time, I have found myself wanting to be kinder and I now try to avoid photographing people who might be vulnerable.
Great site. I hope you find the time to post more frequently.