You Can’t, and Shouldn’t, Ignore These Faces  

Left: Des Moines, Iowa, Terry. Right: Columbus, Ohio, in the Bottoms neighborhood.

Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos

There are 50 portraits in Bruce Gilden’s new book, Face, published by Dewi Lewis, and it’s a safe bet you’ll probably remember all of them.

That’s partly due to Gilden’s raw approach to street photography, a stark, in-your-face style; and partly due to his subjects, a mix of “characters,” as he calls them, who are often overlooked in society.

“The basis of this project is to show people who are left behind,” Gilden said. “A lot of these people are invisible and people don’t want to look at them and if you don’t look at them how can you help them? When you pay attention to those who are usually ignored, it makes their day. That’s not why I do it. I’m not claiming to be a humanitarian; I’m a photographer. I always photograph what’s interesting to me and it has always been people who are underdogs because I see myself as an underdog.”

Left: West Bromwich, Peter. Right: West Bromwich, Leanne.

Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos

Left: Las Vegas, Nevada, Donna. Right: Los Angeles, California, Sherie.                

Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos

Gilden worked on the series for a couple of years in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Colombia and was inspired to photograph subjects who reminded him of himself. But he’s also aware that the images will push buttons for those who aren’t fans of his style.

“I understand that people have difficulty looking at them,” he said about his work. “But I don’t understand why. I judge photography by what’s good, irrelevant of subject matter, irrelevant of anything else. I think that now everyone is being more judgmental, and a lot of people speak without knowledge. They don’t know what goes on in the streets or how it feels to work closely to people in the streets. There are many different views but most of these people are sheep; they just repeat what they think the world should be or what an opinion should be.”

In the 1960s he picked up a camera and apart from a few months here and there, he has rarely put it down since, creating his style over the years. He said finding new things that interest him and figuring out new ways to look at those things has kept him fresh.

“I photograph but I don’t look at it as a job, it’s a passion,” he said. “Passion is harder to maintain than love, love is a continuum and passion goes up and down. For me, when I won’t be able to do it any longer, I’ll quit and I’ll be the only judge of when that happens.”

Left: West Bromwich, Debbie. Right: West Bromwich, Mandy.

Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos