2017
Pan & The Dream - The Emperor's New Clothes
Text
Los Angeles Review of Books Interview by Michael Kurcfeld
Film
2016
Professional Photography, Text by Kathrine Anker
Text
American SuburbX, Text by Brad Feuerhelm
Text
2015
Christies: Artist Nadav Kander Studio Visit
Film
Dust Artist Interview, Flowers Gallery , London
Film
2014
The Strait Times, Text by Deepika Shetty
Text
Dust Interview, Studio International
Film
Dust Review - haunting and painterly. Text by Sean O'Hagan
Text
2013
The Guardian, Text by Jonathan Jones
Text
2012
Nadav Kander Interviewed by William Avedon
Text
Road to 2012: Aiming High, National Portrait Gallery, London
Film
2011
The Observer Magazine, Text by Sandy Nairne
Text
A Conversation with Nadav Kander by Jorg Colberg
Text
2010
The Guardian, Text by Sean O'Hagan
Text
Color Magazine, Text by Helmut Werb
Text
Portfolio Magazine, Text by Simon Baker
Text
Yangtze, The Long River Interview by Lens Culture
Film
2009
Hot Shoe, Interview by Bill Kouwenhoven
Text
Prix Pictet Announcement
Film
Nadav Kander in collaboration with the Royal College of Art
Film
2008
The Financial Times, Text by Francis Hodgson
Text
2007
Miedzy Nami Magazine, Interview By Jakub Mielnik
Text
Color Magazine, Text by Helmut Werb

A Subtle Beauty
How can I make an incredibly interesting photograph?” asks Nadav Kander, mostly to himself. He needn’t worry, really; “interesting” photography is what he does best.

The photography of Israel-born Nadav Kander, who grew up in South Africa and has lived in London for the past twenty years, has shaped not only the avant-garde edge of commercial photography, but has also set new standards for photography as a fine art in the first decade of the new millennium. So it’s not exactly surprising that 2009 has been a good year for him, collecting prizes and awards left and right. In October he won the prestigious Lucie Award in the International Photography competition for “International Photographer of the Year.” And just a few days later he was honored with the Prix Pictet 2009, one of photography’s most coveted awards. The Prix Pictet has a unique mandate—to use the power of photography to communicate crucial messages to a global audience about the immense social and environmental threats of the new millennium. Kofi Annan, Honorary President of the Prix Pictet and former Secretary- General of the United Nations, made the presentation to Nadav Kander for his truly astounding work Yangtze, The Long River.

Yet despite all the international accolades, what brought Nadav Kander to the forefront of American awareness in 2009 was the appearance in a January issue of The New York Times Magazine  of his strangely shocking, yet revealing Obama’s People —stark portraits of 53 of President-elect Barack Obama’s early staff and inner circle of advisers, all photographed after the election in November 2008. At the suggestion of Gerald Marzorati, the editor of The New York Times Magazine,  who conceived the project in March 2008, Kathy Ryan, the director of photography, eventually approached Kander with the idea to document the new administration as it was being assembled, and he portrayed politicians such as Hilary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in an intimate, and what often seems an unbearably close, manner.
“I don’t know why, but I never really get intimidated by people,” remembers Mr. Kander on the phone from London. “But I got incredibly nervous when I was photographing Mr. Obama.”

Mr. Kander’s nervousness was not only caused by the very hard time the Secret Service gave him before the actual session with the then President-elect, but also because he had set a rather lofty goal for himself. “Nervousness always makes me work more intently,” he says, adding “This work had to stand the test of time.” For him, this was capturing a historic moment. “How will it look in 30 years? So I decided I was going to make this portfolio historically important. It also had to be completely devoid of my ego.”

Not many of his subsequent American admirers realized at the time The New York Times  feature appeared that they had already seen Kander’s work on an almost daily basis. Kander is considered one of the most sought-after commercial photographers of our time. His client list is impressive and includes Adidas, Air France, the computer giant Dell, as well as luxury carmakers Mercedes and Lexus, just to name a few. And besides The New York Times, Kander also shoots for GQ, Rolling Stone , and The Guardian . Considering that there might not exist a handful of successful commercial photographers in the world who are also recognized in the fine art world, Kander’s achievement is immense. “I was never really interested in being a commercial photographer,” he says. “So my artistic work has greatly influenced my commercial work. Generally, when I’m working commercially I still do what I would do without the assignment.” No different approach towards his subjects, he insists. “It might take you away otherwise.”

It is a long and distinguished career that the 48-year-old Kander can look back on. When he bought his first camera, a Pentax, at the ripe age of thirteen with money he received at his Bar Mitzvah, he got hooked almost immediately. But even then, he says, there was this sense of quiet and unease in his snapshots that “is part of my work today.” Yet it took a horrific motorbike accident at the age of seventeen in South Africa before he began to concentrate fully on his photography. He was drafted into the South African armed forces and managed to get a post in the Air Force, working for two years as an aerial photographer.

It is interesting to speculate whether this experience might have given him the characteristic sense of distance present in his work. It is a kind of distant integrity that makes his photography stand out from the rest. His award-winning series Yangtze, the Long River , more than two years in the making, might be muted in color and seemingly detached from its subjects, but that is only on the surface. The images grip you with a fascinating intensity. Size and angles are played against each other in the subtlest manners. Human beings are being dwarfed by gigantic structures. His muted color scenes become alive only in the smallest bright patches.

He was very much looking forward to work in China, Mr. Kander tells me. “I was there five times. This is a country barreling forward at an unnatural speed, and the river is the perfect example for it—every second you look at it, it is a different river.” To elicit the desired reaction from the viewer he needed to avoid documentary-style photography. “It was really never my intention to document. Georgia O’Keefe said once: ‘What is the point of just recording?’ What I’m after is the feeling at the moment.” There is pride in his voice when he adds quietly: “This is my crowning point to this day.”

There is no shortage of great work in Mr. Kander’s portfolio. In his haunting, neo-reportage-style, Chernobyl, Half Life  evokes feelings of the utter desolation after a nuclear catastrophe without showing the violence or resorting to gruesome, in-your-face antics. He had always intuitively realized, he says in a quiet voice, that the eye only needs to see a fragment and the mind will fill in the rest. “Gruesome is such a loud word. I usually don’t go for ‘gruesome.’ I just keep my eyes open for signs that man inhabits the landscape. I am looking for signs that we exist.”

Chernobyl was both troubling and fascinating for him at the same time, he explains. “Wherever I went, I saw…well, quite beautiful pictures, too pictorial, too beautiful. After all the people who died there!"
Still, in other works like The Parade , I ask, isn’t there indeed an intrusive approach involved? 
“Yes, it is quite voyeuristic. I worked on the series after Chernobyl and around a time when the TV program Big Brother  became popular—people being watched in their own homes.” He has made three bodies of work—The Parade , shot entirely around a nuclear power station in England; God’s Country , a selection of stark and eerily haunting landscapes in the United States; and Signs That We Exist,  simple abstractions of objects that explore the effects humans have on their surroundings—each almost completely devoid of human beings, and each one alarming in a way that is not easy to explain, an almost frightful detachment that comes very close to mesmerizing the viewer.

Regarding some of his other photographs, Mr. Kander seems to be strangely reluctant to discuss his work. “I couldn’t really talk about it”, he says about his remote and eerily aloof Colour Fields . “It’s easier for me to talk about my other work, like the Yangtze project. There is far more depth in it than in Colour Fields .” Then there is also his use of black and white in Arctic Circle , a collection of haunting, almost melancholic visions of harsh and non-forgiving landscapes. “I tend not to work landscape in black and white any more,” is all he is willing to volunteer. “I found it to be quite nostalgic.” In an earlier magazine interview he explained why he tried not to display too much engagement with his subjects. “I remain detached, watching the scene from the outside. I think this detachment helps to create a tension in my work.”


When Nadav Kander selects his projects, he claims not to approach them analytically, and he’s not writing down ideas. He is, he insists, not setting out to do these things. Instead, he gets inspired. And he makes it clear that he is not interested in beauty for its own sake. “When I’m working with someone, making a portrait, although I might be photographing that person I am trying to show what is behind him or her. I start to notice things, how the light falls; the tiniest hand movements tell you so much. It is difficult to explain. It just comes naturally—your feelings are heightened. When I’m working well I’m in the zone.” And then he just does it. “No phony angles,” he says, “no voyeuristic views. The worst thing you can do is to sensationalize things. It is only beautiful when it’s subtly done.”