Photographers I Love: Nadav Kander

Photographers I Love: Nadav Kander

Working with Nadav Kander has long been a dream of mine as a producer. And although it will remain just that, a dream, I’m OK with it because I still get to enjoy his images!

I remember vividly when I first saw Nadav Kander’s work: I was a fresh-of-the-boat art buyer intern at BBDO New York and Bill Stockland, his agent in the US, came to show us books. Bill was a great agent – I’m sure he could have sold snow to Eskimos – but Kander’s photographs didn’t need any selling.

I love their stillness and intimacy. His soft color palette lures you into the images. I read that he reworks them in post-production to achieve the desired color effect. For Nadav Kander, an image is not finished until he gave it a treatment. Post-production is an integral part of his creative process, not just an addition.

His work is infused with melancholy, loneliness and isolation. Besides his muted color palette and love for dark and moody atmospheres, he often photographs lone figures, lost in vast landscapes. Ruins are also a recurring theme in his work – from Roman artifacts to a deserted Chernobyl, Kander explores what is left after time and death. One of is series is in fact titled, “Signs We Exist,” which shows what people leave behind: nail holes in walls where posters were; cigarettes butts buried in the sand on a beach; marks left by long-gone chairs on a floor; peeling wallpaper in abandoned flats…

Nadav Kander’s portraits share the same melancholy and depth. They at times feel like a psychological exploration of his sitter. Through reflections, dark backgrounds, or simple props, Kander offers us a glimpse into his model’s inner life. The images are unmistakably his.

At a certain level, I don’t see separation in my work: a landscape showing the palm print of humanity upon the natural world, the way we exist within our environment, is as much a portrait of a human being as a close-up photograph of a person.” Nadav Kander

Actor Stanley Tucci sitting on a chair in a dark room, holding a glass panel in front of him
A man, standing alone under a large bridge

Israeli-born, London-based photographer Nadav Kander (b. 1961) grew up in South Africa during apartheid, an experience that marked him. As he later recalled, “I grew up with injustice all around me; apartheid was in everyone’s bones.”

Nadav Kander learned about photography and its endless creative possibilities thanks to his father who used to photograph their vacations. His dad’s slideshows remain a vivid memory to this day. He started taking pictures at 13 and was interested in the early masters, like Strand, Stieglitz, Weston and Atget. Studying their work, Kander saw you could explore a range of subjects as long as you remain true to your sensibility and experience. While the subject matter changes and you need to adapt to it technically, your creative intent should remain constant. That freedom stayed with Nadav Kander, who is equally celebrated for his landscapes as he is for his portraits.

During his mandatory military service in South Africa, he managed to be drafted into the Air force and then into a darkroom where he printed aerial pictures for two years. That experience only reinforces his determination to become a photographer. He left for England soon after where his career truly began.

There are poetry and quietness in his world (and, at times, unease). Nadav Kander’s photographs act as a small meditation; looking at them brings in an immediate sense of stillness. I feel better already, don’t you?

Deserted research facility building, half fallen in ruins
Lone person, seen from the back, sitting at a picnic table in a park at night
Lone man on a small boat in a river, under a gigantic overpass

© Nadav Kander

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Nadav Kander. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Andreas Gursky

Photographers I Love: Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky ushered in the giant photographic prints area (with stratospheric price tags).

I remember going to MoMA in 2001 to see Andreas Gursky’s exhibit. The sheer scale of the prints and of the scenes he captured was mind-blowing. The size might have been gigantic, but every detail was there. It might be a crowd scene, but you could make out every single person in it (that is, if you were able to get close enough to the print with a loupe!).

People are dwarfed in his images – if they are present at all! People are dots on the image, no bigger than ants at times. Gursky’s subject is what people have built, not people. The few human figures in his photographs seem insignificant compared to where they stand.

Andreas Gursky often prefers an empty stage: the environment is man-made, but man is nowhere to be seen. His work is a reminder that the gigantic structures we built are all that will be left of us after we’re gone. We are confronted by miles and miles of supermarket aisles, of buildings or hotel floors… all empty and lifeless.

Inside view of a large discount store

Born in Germany in 1955, Andreas Gursky studied photography under Hilda and Bernd Bechner who are famous for their “clinical” photographs of industrial structures. This experience led him to favor strong lines and strict geometry. Other influences were John Davies, who photographed landscapes and cityscapes from a high vantage point, something we often see in Gursky’s compositions. 

His colors are poppy and vibrant, adding to the sensory overload one experiences when in front of his images. Most of his prints are gigantic – some of them up to six feet high by ten feet long! The image overwhelms and engulfs you. It’s a disorienting experience as you feel simultaneously far from the scene and part of it.

While he started in the film days, he was an early adopter of digital cameras and computers. The new technology allowed him to go ever bigger, stitching multiple images to create his panoramic work.

Inside courtyard view of a multi-floor gigantic hotel
A soccer field seen from high above during a game

I recently read that the 1990s German photography school doesn’t sell as well as it used to (except for Gursky, who shattered records when his Rhein II print sold for US$4,338,500 at Christie’s in 2011). Some explained the slump by the fact that most prints were so large that neither museums nor private collectors had the physical space to display them! I’m not sure it’s that simple… but it is a bit ironic to think what made the works famous, their scale, might be what limits their success in the end.


© Andreas Gursky

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Andreas Gursky. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Michael Kenna

Photographers I Love: Michael Kenna

It’s impossible to choose my favorite Michael Kenna’s images, I love so many of them!

In November 2022, the British-born photographer gave the entirety of his archive to the French government. 3,683 original prints; 175,000 contact sheets; 1,280 Polaroids… The donation is substantial and reasserts photography’s importance in the French cultural landscape.

I have to thank my husband, Tim Dalton, for introducing me to Kenna’s work. I was at the time working as the Co-Editor in Chief of Resource Magazine, a photo magazine I started with a friend, and looking for content. Tim told me about Michael Kenna, I looked him up and fell in love with his ethereal landscapes. He was incredibly gracious when responding to our interview questions and sent us a ton of great images to choose from! An editor’s dream.

Michael Kenna often uses leading lines in his compositions. Your eyes are directed toward something, being it a tree or the distant horizon. Landscape photographers most often shoot at dawn or dusk as the sunlight is too harsh during the day. Kenna also uses long exposure times (up to 10 hours!), which create ethereal element to his images. A river becomes an evanescent foam, while fog looks even more mysterious.

“We see in color all the time. Black and white is therefore immediately an interpretation of the world, rather than a copy.” Michael Kenna

Foggy landscape with a river in the foreground and a mountain in the distance
High mountain shrouded in clouds

I love how his images go to the essence of his subject – a lone tree in a snowy landscape, a mountain emerging from the fog… There’s no distraction, no people and often no buildings to bring us into the here and now.

I would die to see a real print of his – I’m sure they must be amazing, B&W photography really comes to life on physical prints. I was not surprised to learn that he worked as a printer for Ruth Bernhard, an older photographer who used black & white film for her work. Although their images and subjects are different, their images share the same printing quality.

I’m always interested in an artist’s background. It sometimes explains how they became who they are, but often, it doesn’t. What made a working-class kid from a large Irish Catholic family who studied to be a priest turn to art? How did he free himself from his family and society’s expectations, leave everything behind and forge his own path? It requires incredible courage and faith to believe in yourself. Too often the world beats you down; I always admire artists and other visionary talents for fighting back.

A row of trees reflected on the nearby river

© Michael Kenna

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Michael Kenna. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.