Gus Powell’s photographs have been published in The New Yorker regularly for the past few years as opening images for our Goings On About Town section. When I asked Gus recently if good pictures were to be had after he scouted an art installation for us, he answered, “I do think some honest but slightly quirky pictures can be made.” This says much about Gus’s personality and approach to making photographs. His pictures are honest in the sense that they reflect how he sees images and the feelings they evoke in him. He has an elegant touch and a slightly quirky sensibility.
Gus has hunted for pictures that are uniquely his and as honest as his personality. His 6’5” height allows him a sweeping view and distinct way of organizing space within his horizon line, with his head above the crowd or ducking down as the case may be. The street is his preferred space to “make” pictures—he uses words carefully, “making” pictures rather than “taking” them. It comes as no surprise that he admires Joel Meyerowitz, who was a mentor to him and whose nineteen-seventies street photography influenced him, along with the work of Garry Winogrand, Joel Sternfeld, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and Paul Graham. More surprising, he has a great affection for Jacques Henri Lartigue’s graceful and spirited photography. This makes perfect sense to me; elegance and whimsy are part of Gus’s visual vocabulary.
Gus was born and lives in New York. For years he has walked the streets of this city with the camera dangling from his shoulder or in front of his eye. This city has trained him to observe its multi-layered, often eccentric inhabitants, the play of its strong lights and shadows, its architecture, its speed. Many photographers are given the label “street photographer” these days; for Gus, being a street photographer simply means he prefers to work outside instead of in the studio. This however, is far from simple. The challenge is not to recreate the classics but to make real pictures that reflect contemporary life. No easy task in a world flooded with easy images and a long tradition of pictures from a far more picturesque world.
The Lonely Ones
JAN 13 – FEB 27, 2015