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Art Kane by Tony Nourmand & Holly Anderson


I have always been a fan of cinema and jazz. Twenty years ago, I saw ‘A Great Day in Harlem’, the Oscar-nominated documentary that tells the story of Art Kane’s photograph ‘Harlem 1958’ .
Fast forward to 2012 and we are at our first New York Book Expo with our recently launched publishing house, Reel Art Press. A news videographer shooting on location at Book Expo, Tim Cothren, (a childhood friend of Jonathan Kane’s), was flicking through our books on JFK and Hurrell when out of the blue, he asked: ‘Would you be into doing a book on Art Kane?’ My eyes lit up as I asked, ‘Do you mean Art Kane of ‘Harlem 1958?’ I gave Tim my card and Holly emailed me soon after, introducing herself and Jonathan and sending a link to their website. I saw photographs I was familiar with but didn’t know they, too were all Art Kane’s. It made me very excited.
Some months later on a trip to New York, I made an appointment to visit Jonathan and Holly. As soon as I got into the lift with Jonathan, I felt at home and knew it was going to be a good fit. Whether I would do their book wasn’t even a question. They proceeded to show me Kane’s work and I was stunned by the mind blowing graphic and conceptual images. The breadth of the work was astounding.
At that meeting we also looked at favorite photo books, discussing how we envisaged our book. Then we just got on with it! When I do books with photographers, or estates, I am heavily involved in the editing process but in the case of Jonathan and Holly, after I had seen their initial selection and how they wanted to do the layout, I left them (mostly) to it, only putting my foot down occasionally. They wanted the book to be a broad overview of Art Kane’s work, not just his well-known music photographs and I completely agreed. Kane’s talent extended across genres and there were amazing images to choose from in every corner of the archive. Not just music and fashion, but documentary, social justice and his experimental ‘sandwich’ images.  

One decision I did insist on was the cover photo. Aside from it being a powerful image, the question ‘is it upside down?’ went through my head. I love this ambiguity that surrounds Kane’s work. The cover says, ‘expect the unexpected’. His work is visionary and innovative. He is a photographer’s photographer and has influenced generations. It has been an absolute privilege, as a young emerging publishing house, to have the opportunity to publish work of this high caliber.
Tony Nourmand, Publisher, Reel Art Press

I met Art Kane in person in 1982 when I started dating his son, Jonathan. Two years later when we married, Art became my father-in-law and for the next eleven years he alternately captivated, embarrassed, thrilled or infuriated me. Art was incredibly gallant as well as occasionally galling. What an in-law. What a remarkable man. What a long-tailed comet of creative genius and drive.

But who could possibly know in 1970 as a dreamy 9th grader that the book my mother gave me that Christmas, Alan Aldridge’s The Illustrated Beatles Lyrics was going to be a very brief reveal of the unknown future? The Art Kane photos in those pages towered above every other illustration and mesmerized a blue-collar girl who knew that no matter what she, too, had to be an artist.

So flash forward and I’m meeting not only the attributed inspiration for that Beatles book but the photographer who shot the Life magazine story “The New Rock” that everyone in my generation hung in their bedrooms until they left for college. Now this celebrated artist with the big white penthouse studio on Broadway and 28th Street and the beautiful apartment on Gramercy Park didn’t seem to like me one bit on first meeting. He thought I might be a bad influence on Jonathan (who by the way was sleeping — by choice — on a foam mattress beside his drum kit in a rehearsal studio off Avenue B and that detail alone had me smitten.) Art thought I was some kind of socialist or homemade anarchist with a careless haircut and no makeup – just a slash of red lipstick – living in the old East Village on dreams and 10 bucks a day. He soon found out I was publishing poems and even though he didn’t know any of the little magazines or downtown papers he respected that. He also knew straight away how much his son was loved. Feeding Art the occasional home cooked meal when he was in town helped further my cause as well. And when we finally gave him a bouncing baby girlchik, even though the moniker “grandpa” freaked him out — this first female Kane in generations delighted him hugely. She sealed the deal. We were family.

Assembling this long overdue book was a labor of pure love and deep respect. Art Kane’s impeccable and unrelenting eye lives on to inspire younger image-makers whatever their medium, to tell new stories that like Art’s most resonant work will remain timeless and evergreen.

Holly Anderson, Poet and Editor.

Art Kane Archive :
Information, Prints, Syndication and Licensing
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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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