Bruce Gilden

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Bruce Gilden’s (born 1946) upbringing in Brooklyn lent him an eye for the urban environment, and in particular its varied inhabitants. Since taking up photography in the late 1960s, Gilden has become well-known for his portraits of the characters found on the streets of New York, and further afield.

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Early Years

Bruce Gilden was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 16 October 1946. While studying Sociology at Pennsylvania State University, he saw Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up, and was inspired to take up photography. After taking night classes at the New York School of Visual Arts, Gilden decided to become a photographer full-time.

Photographic Career

His first long-term project, which he worked on until 1986, focused on Coney Island, the legendary New York resort. During this time Gilden made an extended series of photographs of New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras festival. Then, in 1984, he began to work in Haiti, where he has since returned 19 times. His book Haiti concluded this work in 1996. In February 2010 Gilden returned to the country, and has now embarked upon a second series, dedicated to documenting the everyday struggle facing many of the country’s citizens.

Since 1981, Bruce Gilden has been working on his most significant and well-known project documenting the streets of New York City, with a sociological emphasis on the people found there. To date this has resulted in two books of the work, Facing New York in 1992, and later in 2005, in A Beautiful Catastrophe.

Gilden has also worked on numerous other projects. In 1999, he published After the Off, which explored rural Ireland and its passion for horseracing. Then, in 2000 Gilden published Go, a study of Japanese culture, including images of Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia), the homeless, and Bosozoku (young biker gangs). In 2008, he returned to photographing his homeland, inspired by the need to document the fallout from the Credit Crunch.

Bruce Gilden joined Magnum in 1998. He lives in New York City.