Focus on Photographers - Nadav Kander

Nadav Kander (www.nadavkander.com) is a regular contributor to many international publications, including the New York Times Magazine, for whom he documented Obama's People.  His many international awards and nominations include most recently the Silver Photogapher of the Year Award at the Lianzhou Internaitonal Photo Festival in China.  He holds the title of the largest portfolio of work by the same photographer to have appeared in the The New York Times Magazine in one single issue, a feat that was the result of 52 portraits made of "Obama's People" made after the elections.  He has published multiple monographs: Beauty's Nothing (2001), Nadav Kander -- Night, Obama's People, and Yangtze - The Long River (2010).  His seventeen solo exhibitions and thirty-two group exhibitions (at the time of this writing) attest to his wide acceptance as a force in the photographic arts. Below are two excerpts from excellent interviews about two very different projects of his: a series from the Yangtze River in China and portrait work for the National Portrait Gallery in London.

"YANGTZE: THE LONG RIVER" SERIES

"I got really interested in China purely from reading newspapers.  This constant change that was happening to China and this paternal role it was taking in a monetary sense.  It felt like a country that was uneasy, and that was really attractive to me …  I never photographed longer than about sixteen days. I always returned to England for a four- to six-month period, and I returned for five different trips.  On my first trip I came back with quite intimate portraits, indoors, outdoors, much closer views to things.  Only on my second trip did I start to realize  that what was working far better for me was when I stepped back and when I became more voyeuristic and when I acted the outsider, which I was very much feeling in China …  I never intended this to be documentary work.  I'm not a documentarian, and I'm not interested in truth and photography being the vehicle for it. I don't believe it's photography's place anymore. For me the only interest in it is to express one's self, one's view-- leaving enough questions unanswered in any frame that I take and that people can respond in their own way and tell their own story through it and see their own emotional state through the work."

"ROAD TO 2012: NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY"

"I enjoy photographing people that give me a reason to lift my camera. I think it's very different and very difficult when there's very little visual interest.  I tend not to spend a lot of time with the sitter beforehand, and I let them, through my assistants or PA if they want hair or makeup or what's at their disposal.  I usually stay away at that point.  It's when they sit down or stand up in front of the camera.  I let it go from there. I try and let things orchestrate themselves in a way.  I've always chosen some lighting that I think is appropriate,  or the way that I want to see that person.  I'm often wrong. I often start shooting and then go and look at the screen, which is always turned away from the sitter.   Sometimes I include them, especially if they're actors, because they can bring a lot to the collaboration, I feel.  But with people that are nervous, I certainly turn the screen away.  I go to another area of the studio where I can have a look. Very often I decide that what I thought would be appropriate really isn't, and I rethink it.  And that's when it gets interesting, really, when you start changing it and reacting to who a person is and who they are.  It's not a real cerebral thing for me, and therefore very difficult to put into words. And in a way, I'm actually quite scared at finding out how I work, because I'm not sure if it will be edgy anymore."

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