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Keeping up with Bruce

Beauty Papers. Bruce Gilden. New York. Fifty-one thousand eight hundred and twelve steps. Phew.

Film by
ARNO and DAN VALLINS
Words KARL PLEWKA

The painter Georgia O’Keefe said, “One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.” Another artist in whose work the eternal vibrations of Gotham can be felt is the legendary, Brooklyn-born street photographer Bruce Gilden. But Gilden is no Good Vibrations Beach Boy for he is a surly and tough native New Yorker who, like a medium, channels the fragile tremors of the human psyche through his Leica lens.

Indeed his work—often brutal, devastating, up-close-and-personal portraits of the kind of people you could only ever imagine existing on Manhattan’s sidewalks—could be viewed as unkind until one sees how Gilden never ceases to record that flicker of hope in his subjects eyes, a glint of defiance at never being broken by the city of shattered dreams. For Beauty Papers #6, Gilden has taken the ‘BIG’ theme to glorious extremes with an exclusive series of larger-than-life portraits that offer both a disquieting beauty and sense of pathos that leaves us shaken and stirred and, like any effective portrait, wanting to know more. To this end, those who find themselves in the sights of Gilden’s camera are certainly subject to scrutiny and extreme observation, but never pity. At once both brutalised and immortalised, Gilden’s ‘sitters’ surely experience a transfiguration as they feel the force of his flashgun.


Beauty Papers Issue Six available here

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