Faces: Bruce Gilden In Conversation with Susan van Wyk

Faces 2012–14 is an extended series of compelling photographic portraits by artist Bruce Gilden, featured in the NGV Triennial. These large-scale portraits, filmed in extreme close-up, show every line and blemish on his subject’s faces, drawing attention to the lack of facial symmetry and perceived imperfections that mark us all as individuals. Gilden describes the series as an autobiographical reflection on his childhood in Brooklyn and the result of a lifelong fascination with ‘characters’ he encounters in pursuit of his subjects.

Gilden reflects on this work and discusses the concept and creative process behind its creation with NGV’s Senior Curator of Photography Susan Van Wyk.

Presented as part of Photo 2021.


Bruce Gilden initially enrolled to study sociology at Penn State University before he began taking classes in photography around 1967. Shortly after this time, he abandoned his formal studies and commenced a career in photography, which has spanned more than 50 years. He is renowned for his direct style of street photography, often working quite close to his subjects, resulting in dynamic – if sometimes uncomfortable – images of people going about their lives. Gilden has held numerous exhibitions of his photography and published eighteen monographs of his work. Since 1998 he has been a member of the Magnum Photo Agency.

Susan Van Wyk has been the Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) since 2012. Since joining the Gallery in 1989, she has curated numerous exhibitions of Australian and international photography. Recent exhibitions include: Olympia: Photographs by Polixeni Papapetrou, Turning Points: Contemporary Photography from China, Alex Prager, Follow the Flag: Australian artists and war 1914-1945, Edward Steichen and Art Deco Fashion, and Thomas Demand. Susan is the author of numerous articles, catalogues and books on photography including: Olympia: Photographs by Polixeni Papapetrou, Henry Talbot: 1960s fashion photographer, No Standing Only Dancing: Photographs by Rennie Ellis, The Paris End: Photography Fashion and Glamour, and co-author of Second Sight: Australian Photography in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.

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