Street photography can mean many things in a city where life is fast and cameras are affordable. However, New York’s undisputed kingpin of the streets has to be iconic Brooklyn-born shooter Bruce Gilden—the man who has spent a career getting up close and personal—often uncomfortably so—with the people, and places, of America’s most mythologized city. In this, the latest episode of our landmark series Photographers in Focus, filmmaker Joppe Rog turned the lens on a figure who makes the everyday extraordinary, entering a world of sinister glances and often unexpectedly candid revelations.
From Coney Island to Manhattan (though he’s often trod beyond the five boroughs) Gilden’s approach has always been upfront; first using flash and momentum to snap people caught between hurried flight and glacial contemplation. Later he would turn to color: working on a long-term project, and book, collected together as Face. In these we can see, in all their glorious physicality, the storied countenances of modern America. Often, these are people who have been trodden down by life, though Gilden demands that we cannot ignore them. As a result, these images not always ‘easy’ to look at, but, as Gilden’s work suggests, a great photo doesn’t have to be easy—only raw, and uncompromisingly honest.