Face the Truth

Street Photography Bruce Gilden’s New Book Documents Society’s Forgotten Faces

Brooklyn-born photographer Bruce Gilden has had a long and distinguished career. Although he won the European Publisher’s Award for his work chronicling the lives of the people of Haiti, perhaps his most iconic images capture close up, the lives of equally forgotten people in his homeland. Face, released by Dewi Lewis Publishing is just the latest in a long line of books which Dewi and Bruce have worked on together.

“I think it may be the best work I’ve ever done. It is powerful – quintessential Bruce Gilden”.

USA. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 2013. Lee-Ann at the state fair.
Face is like a manifesto for the anti-hero, capturing illuminating portraits of modern society’s underbelly, its downtrodden outcasts that speak of broken promises in these supposed lands of opportunity. “What makes them stand out is that each of these people has something special inside of them,” explains Bruce. “I share a kinship with all of them. Many of these people have been left behind in one way or another.”

But there’s a certain grace and dignity about Bruce’s subjects, an inner beauty that sneers in the face of the homogenised images of affluence that proliferate everywhere in our culture.

GB. West Bromwich. 2014. Andy, from Newcastle, at the bus station.
We were eager to speak to this celebrated photographer some more.

The Plus: How did you come to work with Dewi on the book? Was there much of a collaborative process involved?
Bruce Gilden:
I’ve worked previously on several books with Dewi – he did my first book Facing New York in 1992 and we’ve done several other books. I was at the Paris Photo Fair in 2014 and I showed him a selection of images and he said he’d do the Face book.

We decided to have no photo on the cover and I always wanted to have one picture, full page, across from a blank page. And, between us, there was not much disagreement as to which pictures should’ve been in the book.

USA. Miami, FL. 2013. Leonilda.
TP: Is there any character you photographed for Face that really stand out to you now?
Obviously, I have my favourites.

TP: How did you go about finding the people to shoot, was it purely by chance?
No, I’m an intuitive photographer and when I see somebody who visually attracts me I ask them to take a photo.

USA. Minneapolis, Minn. 2014. Lela at the Minnesota State Fair.
TP: Did you get into any scary situations whilst shooting?
No, except for one situation in the Midlands. A guy was drunk and when I went over to him to ask if I could take a picture he turned to me and said, “Get the fuck out of my face.” Then we talked and became friends.

TP: Do you take a camera with you everywhere, or do you sometimes need a break from it?
No, I don’t take a camera with me everywhere. I don’t think a photographer can be on all of the time when they put this much of themselves into their photography.

GB. West Bromwich. 2013.
TP: What advice would you give to any young (or old!) aspiring photographers?
Be yourself. But of course, you must know yourself.

TP: Should we expect more books in the future?
Yes, I have two coming out soon. One published by Kehrer Verlag called Hey Mister, throw me some beads and another of my work done for the RATP called “Un nouveau regard sur la mobilité urbaine.” Of course, I have more books in me. Some of old work and some of work yet to be done.

GB. Wolverhampton. 2013. Beat-up man. James.
Images Courtesy of Magnum Photos and Bruce Gilden.