Barry Kieselstein-Cord is an award winning photographer who's career spans over four decades and whose work has appeared in leading international publications, among them Vogue, Town and Country, Interview, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal among many others. K-C's work has been collected by numerous celebrities from Wall Street titans to Hollywood personalities and many who just love his imagery. His work has been collected by museums from the Louvre to the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
Mr. Cord credits his interest in photography as being influenced while working as a young art director with renowned photographers such as Avedon, Penn, Burt Stern, Melvin Sokolsky and Hiro.
In 2011 Mr. Cord's photography was published by the Hudson Press with an introduction by Nancy Hall-Duncan formally of the Bruce Museum in Connecticut. The book title is called AWARDED.
Mr. Cord is presently at work on a second volume titled AWARDED REDOUX. Publication is expected the first half of 2016.
AN INTRODUCTION - From "Awarded" by Nancy Hall-Duncan
If you think you know Barry Kieselstein-Cord, you are probably wrong. He is a dedicated, lifelong photographer with a large, sometimes shocking, and frequently beautiful body of work. But you might recognize his name from elsewhere. Acknowledged in particular for his luxurious jewelry and lifestyle accessories, Kieselstein-Cord is most commonly associated with the world of fashion. Yet there is another vast and impressive side to this artist—and a body of work perhaps closer in tune to his artistic vision. This book serves to reveal that oeuvre. Inside are images taken over a forty-year career, photographs that attest to a visionary artistic spirit.
Though Kieselstein-Cord’s design work has earned him the industry’s highest honors—including Coty and CFDA Awards and placement in the collections of the Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art—and Kieselstein-Cord has helped set legal benchmarks that protect artists’ rights, his photography is just as distinguished. In addition to the design advertisements he has personally photographed for his brand, Kieselstein-Cord has captured more than twenty thousand landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and political statements. Kieselstein-Cord’s photography exhibits the same independent spirit and intellectual curiosity as his other endeavors; he refuses to stay within one genre, but rather explores all aspects of the medium.
His interest is in the expressive power of the image, whether one cares to call it commercial photography, fine art, or a reflection of our contemporary culture.
While not a conventional technician, Kieselstein-Cord experiments with black-and-white photography as well as color. And though his work is rooted in film, he has embraced digital photography for its technological possibilities: its ability to extend artists’ potential and further their creations. “It has become a new art form and, in the right hands, can be a magnificent tool to express anything, more than ever before,” he explains.
Kieselstein-Cord has been fascinated with photography since his youth, but it was only after he started his own business in 1973 that he began to employ these skills toward a professional goal. When he started his company, he hired talented photographers, including the well-known Albert Watson. But soon enough he wanted to have total control, so as to precisely convey the universal message of his lifestyle brand, and he became the only photographer for his company’s advertising campaigns. Photography had become central to his creative vision.
Before that, in the late 1960s, Kieselstein-Cord was a young art director-producer in the New York advertising world, generating provocative ad campaigns, and he had the opportunity to work with many of the legends of the day, including Horst P. Horst, Bert Stern, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn. But at this time, and into the 1970s, Kieselstein-Cord was also a member of a breakthrough wave of revolutionary New York artists. It was an exciting time: Kieselstein-Cord was part of the legendary NYC art scene that included Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe and produced artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
He remembers, “I had dinners with Warhol and hung out in places where avant-garde artists supped, drank, and exchanged ideas: Max’s, 1 Fifth Avenue, and early Mr. Chow’s.” It’s a tribute to Kieselstein-Cord’s talent that Mapplethorpe consulted him about photographic techniques and admired his photography.
Kieselstein-Cord’s art and images published in Warhol’s Interview magazine were part of the wave that tore down the old order and laid the foundation for today’s avant-garde of sprawling installations and digital art. “My years of advertising photos in Interview are a living photo diary of the period,” the artist has said. Yet several of Kieselstein-Cord’s images relate to the darker side of this New York. “Recall the graffitied subways and crack addicts in NYC,” he says. “My photograph of the syringe and skull, which has an antidrug message, is a direct reflection of that time. The photos of a gun on a night table also came out of that era. This is honest, strong art of the period.”
Kieselstein-Cord began investigating his environment as a young art student. From photographing early-morning Long Island landscapes to becoming his secondary school’s appointed yearbook photographer, he began to build his oeuvre. He portrayed classmates, still lifes, and everyday period scenes. Later in his career, and after moving to the Hudson Valley, he captured quiet, evocative beauty in photographs that draw the viewer in with an almost magical tranquility. These haunting landscapes recall the work of the great Czech photographer Josef Sudek in their mood and quality. They speak of a love of nature and the land, which, though it is actually the Hudson Valley of New York, could be the Cotswolds of England or the Tuscan hills of Italy with their transcendent, misty beauty and ripe, bucolic landscape.
Throughout his career, Kieselstein-Cord has photographed every aspect of his engaging life with relentless curiously. He is fascinated with any shape or form that will help him record or express a meaningful message and convey (through visual imagery) his personal view of the world. His friends, animals, found objects, and even today’s breakfast are all his subjects. He often works in series; for instance, his love of racing cars resulted in a series of photographs spanning eleven years. The images of speed, but also the still lifes and portraits, give us an intimate view of the drivers and mechanics, and of the work that goes into creating an undefeated team.
His new, digital work includes political statements that range from anxiety about global conditions to satire about how self-indulgent segments of our society have become. In the series Cry Freedom (Spring 2012), Kieselstein-Cord expresses his frustration, and even outrage, about demagoguery, dictatorship, and forced obedience. Another digital series, Plastic Dreams (January–March 2012), makes a powerful statement about our artificial society. Some of the greatest artists and writers throughout history—Goya, Dostoyevsky, Jacques-Louis David, Denis Diderot, and many more—have denounced social and political crises through their art. The ability to make photographs that expose important social issues—while leaving the imagery open to the viewer’s interpretation—is part of Kieselstein-Cord’s tremendous talent.
This retrospective contains notable selections from Kieselstein-Cord’s entire career. It highlights his staggering achievement, not only in the amount and range of his photographs but also in their absorbing and sophisticated result. For those of us who thought we knew the scope of Barry Kieselstein-Cord’s artistic production, we will be wonderfully delighted to discover that he is a challenging, fascinating, and truly important photographer.