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

Nadav Kander is as well known for his landscapes as he is for his portraits, and has won numerous accolades for both – including a Prix Pictet for his landscapes on the Yangtze River and a World Press Photo award in the staged portrait singles category. He also made headlines with his portrait series ‘Obama’s People’, commissioned by The New York Times Magazine to coincide with President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Kander’s 52 portraits of the people surrounding Barack Obama as he entered office – from a young speechwriter to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden – made up the largest single photo story the veteran publication has ever published in a single issue. It was the first time that a publication had devoted an entire issue to such a project since Rolling Stone’s 1976 celebration of America’s bicentennial election campaign with Richard Avedon’s portraits, ‘The Family’. Although Kander’s body of work might seem varied, his photographs are all about the same thing: exploring the human condition.

The second edition of Photo London is almost upon us: what will you be doing there?
“I’m going to do a talk with Sandy Nairne, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery; he’ll be interviewing me. I don’t know what will come out of that conversation – it’s a bit like you and I, it depends on what we talk about. But I’m very keen to be involved with Photo London, especially as it’s taking place in my home town.”

What are you working on at the moment?
“I’ve started a project but I can’t tell you about it yet. There’ll be one or two images on display at the Flowers Gallery, which takes part in Photo London.”

How much do you plan and conceptualise before you embark on a new project?
“I don’t storyboard. I don’t plan to the nth degree what I’ll be doing, which a lot of people do to their good advantage; it’s the way they work. I work much more organically, in a way: I go on a whim. I like to be at the beginning, I like to not know what I’m doing because you can really bring a child into the world. There’s a naivete, which is the most wonderful place to be when you’re an artist. Once you know what you’re doing it gives you a pressure that isn’t as freeing as the beginning.”

Your body of work is varied – do you have a favourite subject?
“No, I don’t. It looks varied because the way I show what I’m interested in is very varied. Wherever I look in the world, above or below, I see man’s influence and that’s what I photograph. I photograph the conditions that we live under and by. My landscape is not about nature, it’s about man.”

How so?
“There’s a real marrying of the landscapes that I do, and the portraits, in that they’re both about memory, in a way. A face holds so much of its memory, you see the memory of the person and the big occurrences in a person – how your life story has panned out. Landscape is similar to the telltale effects of human endeavour upon the land. It’s like a signpost to the past. We’ve always looked to the past to inform to the present, the layers of time are very important to us. And although a human being lives for an incredibly short amount of time, the layers of time show on their face – we automatically know more or less how old somebody is. So in that way, the landscape and portraiture is not that different, you’re holding on to a memory.”  

You’ve previously said that making people feel at ease is overrated. What do you do instead?
“The truth of it is, I’m not at ease, usually. Whether people are comfortably at ease is not something I’ve ever been interested in. With popular imagery – the way it is with Instagram and social networking and the amount of magazines that one looks at, the amount of pictures you look at of people acting ‘at ease’ – I don’t really feel like I need to add to that. I think it’s much more interesting to be true to the myriad of moods and ways in which humans express themselves, and I don’t think being tense is any less interesting than being at ease. In fact, we go to the theatre and to movies to see people who are tense and acting out real life drama.”

What makes a portrait good?
“I recently did something for the Samaritans – six portraits of people from behind. You didn’t really see the face, but they had a huge effect on people because they were allowed to join the dots, they were allowed to end the sentence, to discover what that person meant to them. It makes you realise that good portraiture is about leaving questions unanswered. There’s no entertainment in looking at a painting or a sculpture or a picture where everything is told to you, in the same way that there’s no wonder of walking into a building where everything is shown to you at once. It’s about discovering our different views and concentrations. It’s the same with food – it’s the same with anything. It’s not rocket science, is it? Everybody knows this shit, we’ve just been sanitised into believing that we only want the good. That we only want life and must ignore death, that we only want the beautiful and must ignore imperfection. But all of it is necessary. I just want to tell it how it is.”

You’re famous for your lighting; how much do you plan before you go into a portrait session?
“I plan a lot before because it would be rude to take somebody’s time lighting them, although that would always be my preference – if I could turn somebody off, take their batteries out and sit them there and play with lighting. I look at a person’s face on the internet, or wherever I have pictures of them, and something comes to me as to how I should start or what would make them appear most interesting. Not that they’re not interesting, but something that would give them something different to how you usually see them, or some way I could light this person that might be the catalyst for a viewer to recognise something in themselves. That’s really what portraiture is, isn’t it?”

What do you mean by that?
“You can never love a portrait or think a portrait is good unless you’ve had life experience that lets you recognise something in that face. Otherwise you would be nonplussed, you wouldn’t know what it meant. If somebody looks quizzical or irate or envious or ill at ease, you recognise it only because you know the feeling from your own experience. That’s why the viewer is equally important to the sitter, and they’re equally important to me. A picture has no script, the narrative is written by the viewer.”

Do you work a lot in your studio?
“Yes, mostly for portraits. We did a wonderful Amnesty International project with babies that’s coming out soon. I can’t do big things there but I can do little things. The Bodies [a series of nudes shot between 2010 and 2012] were all photographed there.”

Tell me about the ‘Bodies’ project, how did it come about?
“I’d been in China on and off for three years. I just didn’t want to travel, but I wanted to go on with the human experience. I don’t think I knew at the start that the pictures would be sculptural nudes, but I had this idea that I wanted to make forms from flesh and I knew I didn’t want them to particularly be about the person, but more about mood and the ways we occupy our bodies.”

Why did you decide to make the bodies white?
“I didn’t want them to be girly, or boy-like, or sexy, which is why I got the idea to use this white powder and cream. It acted as a barrier between me and the person. At first I applied it incredibly evenly so they looked really pale, because I was thinking a lot about renaissance art and how paleness equalled purity. I was playing with that a bit, but quite soon I realised that the purity thing had no relevance to me, it was just this barrier that helped them not be a person, but be a form of a person. Later, when I thought more about the work and it was clearer for me what kind of compartment it occupied in me, with so many world events going on and ISIS coming up and all these things that scare you, these nudes made me feel like they were beneath the cosmos, they were so small and tiny amongst the much greater universe, and I found comfort in that. So I did one picture where I painted stars as a cosmos above the nudes, which I really like. They’re about the smallness of man.”

Was London kind to you from the start?
“I think London is amazing for new talent. It loves the new, it always has. America seems to be much better once you’ve done well. They applaud you and keep applauding you. It’s harder here, it’s all about the new.”

You also do commercial assignments; is that something you enjoy?
“It can be fantastically invigorating because it’s a platform that gets out to so many people. I can put something on Instagram or in a gallery and 20,000 people might see it, at most – but not like it was intended, as a whole body of work. When you do something for a magazine or for the Olympics, billions of people might get information from it and I find that culturally interesting.”

What do you mean by that?
“Culture is forever responding to what’s around it – art and media and TV shows, so being part of that is exciting. I loved working with David Fincher when he did Gone Girl and with Steven Soderbergh on a show called The Knick about a hospital in New York. It was fantastic because so many people are going to invite that into their lives. And photographing President Obama when he was about to rule for eight years was really culturally exciting.”

What else was it like, photographing Obama?
“God, I was so in the mode of making sure the picture was good, that’s really what I’m doing. I’m extremely on edge and I heighten it to get the best out of myself.”

What’s been your proudest moment?
“Being a decent enough, trying-to-be-better parent and family person. I have three kids, 20, 18 and 16 years old. It’s tough to believe it’s normal: sometimes you think everything is messed up and at other times you think it’s just how it should be.”