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Art Kane by Jonathan Kane


Every art form has a few rare individuals who achieve a confluence of mass appeal with genuine groundbreaking art. Those special few, who reach and touch many, but who also forever change the cultural landscape, and ultimately the way their craft is practiced.  
20th century music has Louis Armstrong and Igor Stravinsky, Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix . 20th century photography has Art Kane.
My father’s contributions to the development of modern photography are numerous and dramatic and created seismic waves in the photographic world, the reverberations of which are still being felt to this day.  

Art Kane’s big bang came in the late 1950’s and the1960’s when he left his career as an art director to pioneer the art of conceptual portraiture. Any photographer that’s ever shot a conceptual portrait after Art Kane, is walking in his footsteps. But there’s more. He exploited bold, saturated color. He was the first to use a wide-angle lens as an illustrative tool and a formal language in fashion and editorial photography. And three plus decades before Photoshop and digital imaging, his ‘sandwich‘ technique of layering multiple transparencies, created powerful visual metaphors and enhanced realities for bold message making and persuasive story telling.
And what messages. What stories.

In the turbulent cultural climate of the1960’s, Art Kane’s photo essays on social issues such as civil rights, war, apartheid, the environment, possessed the power to inform, educate, and even change people’s minds with the laser focus of a single image.

The platform for his visual revolution was the mighty magazine, where anyone with some pocket change and a nearby newsstand could see it, be moved by it, and be changed by it. For over 30 years in the golden era of magazine publishing, before 200 channels on cable TV, before the internet, when the world turned to magazines for news, culture and information, it was nearly impossible to open a major magazine anywhere in the world without seeing Art Kane’s photographs.  So broadly, extensively and continuously was he published; feeding his endless need for the rush of that next assignment, that Art Kane didn’t make many books. It wasn’t a priority for him. He was too busy, and too excited about his next gig. And he expected that ride to never end. So when Art Kane died in 1995, he left no definitive volume. No complete collection of his influential and mind-boggling body of work, for future generations to share and learn from.

Until now.
And that’s cause for celebration!

Tony Nourmand and Reel Art Press, in the great spirit of collaboration with Holly Anderson and myself have produced a comprehensive, career spanning overview of Art Kane’s work.

Art Kane fans, I promise you the greatest hits are here, and there are many of them. But this book also takes a deeper dive into work not seen since its original publication, and some never seen. So you fans will be in for plenty of surprises. And for those who may not be familiar with Art Kane, prepare to have your minds blown. And prepare to say, “I’ve seen that before” or “that looks just like something by so and so, but… it was shot decades earlier!”

It’s notable that despite no major presence on photo section bookshelves (until now), Art Kane remains a name that people know. Even if they’re not sure why they know it.
That’s because several of his photographs are so iconic, so universally famous, that virtually everyone in the modern world knows them. That’s a pretty big claim for a pretty big feat, and yet, it’s true. You can ask just about anyone, anywhere between the ages of 15 and 80 if they know that picture of the rock band The Who, wrapped up asleep in the British flag, and they’ll smile and say, “of course.” You can usually then go on to ask if they know that photograph of 57 Jazz musicians on a building’s stoop in NYC’s Harlem and most will say, “yes, sure!”
I really don’t know of any other photographer who can lay claim to creating images so globally immediately recognizable. Images that everyone from all walks of life, from the photo historian to the person in the street, will light up and say, “sure I know that, I love that picture.”

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Art Kane is easily among the world’s most flattered photographers. He had a gift for coming up with ideas that people want to be a part of, and that other photographers wish they had thought of. That’s why his images are recreated again and again, from homages to outright rip-offs. His Who/flag shot has been copied over and over again, notably by The Who themselves 20 years later, and by other rock bands like Oasis, Green Day, The Black Keys and my all time favorite, TV’s ‘The Simpsons’.
Art Kane’s Jazz group portrait ‘Harlem 1958’, also known as ‘A Great Day in Harlem’ (actually the name of the documentary film about the taking of ‘Harlem 1958’) has been re-staged so many times it’s practically become a global franchise. Gatherings of Hip Hop artists, Klezmer, Blues, New-Jazz, Classical, Choir, you name it. There are dozens of them. I’ve heard about a life size photo-realist pencil drawing rendering, and a stained glass window version. Steven Spielberg even used ‘Harlem 1958’ as the hook and ultimate plot point for the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal.
Flattery, imitation? Yes. I consider Art Kane among the world’s most imitated photographers.

The book Art Kane could not have been made without the unwavering love, devotion and support of a very special group of people, some who Art Kane knew, and some he never even met. Therefore endless thanks and appreciation go to: Tim Cothren, Henry Leutwyler, Jean-Jacques Naudet, Lucy Kane, Michael Somoroff, Jason Nakleh, Guido Harari, and the amazing Tony Nourmand.

Art Kane himself really showed us how to structure this book.
There’s a photo of my dad in the book’s bio section, at his Carnegie Hall studio, smiling by a wall of his pictures that faced the shooting salon. A collection of many of his favorite images. Music, social issues, fashion, editorial, all mixed together. It’s how he liked to look at his own work, and have his clients and visitors see it too.

You’ll see it all in the book. His book.

Jonathan Kane, Musician and Editor

Art Kane
Reel Art Press
Photography by Art Kane
by Jonathan Kane (Author), Holly Anderson (Author), Peter Doggett (Introduction), Michael Somoroff (Foreword)
320pp; Hardback w/slipcase;

200 colour & b/w photographs
304 x 245 mm / 12 x 10 in
ISBN: 978-1-909526-12-9

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