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IN People ON 23 Aug, 2015
A controversial photographer takes mugshots of strangers on the streets with battered and bruised faces, and says he is depicting the true image of real people.
Bruce Gilden, 68, is drawn to people who are often ignored because of their appearance, and chooses them as his subject because they are visually interesting.'The photographer is based in New York but for his latest book of photographs, Face, he visited West Bromwich, in the midlands and Romford, in Essex, to capture portraits, the way he does that in America.
He chooses his subjects from the street but he is particular about who he chooses. Bruce said speaking to Mail Online: "I make their day. Some of the people in my photos are alone in the world. They don't have anyone else to speak to and they're often ignored."
He says, "One lady in England with one tooth in her mouth, I showed her the shot and she said 'I'm beautiful.'"
'She did try really hard to make her lipstick nice.' Bruce is unflinching in his depiction with harsh lighting and the frame cropped close to the subject's face. The photographs have no retouching done after they have been taken. He asks for the permission from all of his participants in the book before shooting them.
He said: "Sometimes you've got the perfect ingredients in the first shot, other times [I need more shots] these are people I've never met before."
'Everything has to be correct.' He makes sure 'the look is intense in the eye.' Some critics have say that Bruce is holding his subjects up to ridicule in the internet age, when their portraits will be open to comments from strangers. But Bruce insists he is on their side and considers them underdogs.
He said: "These are real people and I'm showing them as they are. This is about me and the world. There's a big discrepancy between the rich and the poor, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. A lot of people have money and have got possessions in life and they pay lip service to to the underdog. I don't claim to be a humanitarian but these are the people I'm interested in. I consider myself an underdog too, that's why I'm on their side. I see in their face they've struggled in life."
He usually takes pictures at state fairs in the US because there are so many people to choose from and it's more likely he'll find someone visually interesting. When he asks people to participate and have their picture taken, he says the majority agree to take part. Bruce says: "I'm excited about finding them visually interesting so people become excited too, of course. I tell them it's not a fashion shoot. He has also used children as subjects and said parents are usually on board. In America, in the cities, parents are very protective of their kids. If you don't ask permission they go ape-s***. But when I ask in the Mid West, 99 per cent of parents agree. He pointed out that the subjects he chooses are ones often ignored in the media but they should be celebrated."
Bruce says: "To me the photographs are very powerful and make a statement. It doesn't suit some people's look on life but I photograph for myself. I'm just taking a picture of someone's face."
"I think magazines are so much worse, all the messages they give, all these celebrities with their face lifts and saying you have to thin or you're not good enough." Bruce wants to put that message out with his work. He says: "If you don't look at something that's wrong, how are you going to change it? People should talk about these kind of people. I care about these people."