Bruce Gilden has just published his latest book, Face, which features 50 up close and personal portraits of people around the world. Gilden is well known for his distinct street photography style, taking mostly candid close ups of people on the streets of New York City.
Gilden’s Face photos demand the attention of the viewers, whether they like it or not. His subjects or as he calls them, “characters,” are the underbelly people of society – those whom we as a society typically overlook (or at least don’t take the time to look too closely).
“The basis of this project is to show people who are left behind,” Gilden said. “A lot of these people are invisible and people don’t want to look at them and if you don’t look at them how can you help them? When you pay attention to those who are usually ignored, it makes their day. That’s not why I do it. I’m not claiming to be a humanitarian; I’m a photographer. I always photograph what’s interesting to me and it has always been people who are underdogs because I see myself as an underdog.”
Gilden has taken these same style of portraits of many celebrities that have been released in magazines, fashion editorials, etc. This blunt approach to the average people of the world is symbolic in a few ways. The project visually enables the invisible, giving them a place, a name, and a voice. However, at the same time it manages to place these “characters” under a microscope, highlighting their misfortune and insignificance on a grander scale.
“I understand that people have difficulty looking at them,” he said in an interview about his work. “But I don’t understand why. I judge photography by what’s good, irrelevant of subject matter, irrelevant of anything else. I think that now everyone is being more judgmental, and a lot of people speak without knowledge. They don’t know what goes on in the streets or how it feels to work closely to people in the streets. There are many different views but most of these people are sheep; they just repeat what they think the world should be or what an opinion should be.”
On both his website and Instagram Gilden leaves a quote, “I’m known for taking pictures very close, and the older I get, the closer I get.” Gilden has been presented with many awards, but most recently the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013 and has been featured in eight solo exhibitions all over the globe. Clearly his unique style has made an impression on many art followers so hopefully Faces will allow his “characters” a more visible life.
Want to develop your street photography skills? Click here for some adivce one photographer gathered from Gilden.