‘Here are Bruce Gilden’s people, his family. He shares their teeth, their stubble, their scrapes and blemishes, their fear of death. In the women’s scowls, in their sternly ambiguous glances, he sees his own mother’s face, before she killed herself.
We live in a world whose visual lingua franca has rapidly become the decontextualized, always posed, mechanically lit idiom of social media, of Instagram and, yes, Facebook (and whatever their successors might be). Far from rejecting this environment, Bruce’s portraits embrace it and grapple with it. They say to the viewer: So, you’ve constructed your ‘social network’ out of aspirational pictures, of yourself and of your ‘friends’, but what space does that leave for these people? They are my ‘face book’ friends. You need to look at them – at us – too. You can’t make us disappear with digital photo filters and social media platforms that act as a real world filter, sifting from your ‘community’ all that is discomfiting. We are here, closer than you might remember.‘ (edited from the essay by Chris Klatell).
A defining characteristic of Bruce Gilden’s photography is his creative attraction to what he calls ‘characters’, and he has been tracking them down all through his career. Growing up in Brooklyn with what he describes as a ‘tough guy’ of a father, Bruce Gilden developed a love of the streets, often calling them his ‘second home’. The unique energy of the streets mesmerized Bruce, an energy that can momentarily expose something inside people that generally stays hidden. This new body of work, however, is somewhat of a departure for him in that these tightly cropped, full face images can be seen as ‘collaborative’ portraits. His subjects engage directly with the camera, and the photographs are all taken with permission. Gilden has travelled and exhibited widely around the world, and has received numerous awards, including the European Publishers Award for Photography, three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Japan Foundation fellowship.