27 April 2016
Reading Time
4 minute read

How I Got Here: Nadav Kander, photographer


27 April 2016
Reading Time
4 minute read


In the run up to It’s Nice That’s annual symposium, Here 2016, we’ll be introducing each speaker who will appear at the event. We have asked each of them to share an early piece of work and a recent project, to reflect on how they’ve progressed between the two. This week we speak to photographer Nadav Kander.

Nadav Kander is known for his exquisite portraiture and landscape photography with work present in numerous permanent collections including the National Portrait Gallery, Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. The London-based photographer won the Prix Pictet award in 2009 for his Yangtze – The Long River series and Obama’s People, a series of 52 portraits for The New York Times Magazine also created that year, received widespread acclaim. With a body of work that has appeared on everything from billboards and magazine covers to the walls of fine art galleries, Nadav’s powerful images are celebrated across the world.

Fly (1974)

Why was the work created?
I bought my first camera because I was so in love with beautifully made things, with the mechanical world. The cogs, the F-stops and the beautiful feeling of focusing a lens. That intrigued me. I still have it, in beautiful condition still. Soon after I bought it I bought some extension rings which allow you to take close ups. So I must have, at some point, decided I wanted to shoot things close-up and I don’t remember taking any images other than these dead flies and putting them onto newspaper.

What did you learn while doing it?
I often say the first picture I ever took, in some ways, has hooks into the work I am doing now. It shows a nakedness and pared down, revealing aspect. It’s a look at the inevitable.

What do you think of it now?
It intrigues me that I wanted to photograph something that you can’t see with the naked eye. I was revealing something that I couldn’t see before. Somebody who is more interested in unravelling pictures and the psychology of them would have a field day with it. It is slightly disquieting, which is something that all my work tries to have, a quietness. There is great quietness in things that lie dead. It all wraps up. I find melancholy and vulnerability very beautiful and they all come together to make a heady mixture. Bodies and the Yangtze River are really not dissimilar.

No More (2015)

What was the idea behind the film?
The idea was that I would take stills of a house, a really normal American house and almost film them or make an animatic from them. I spoke to them about making this moving portrait, a grieving camera that is handheld that shows that you are moving. That you are alive and watching, quite voyeuristic. I spoke about the sensitivity needed to make it truly believable. The questions still have to be asked but not answered for you. It’s incredibly simple. I let the sound the recording do the work. We used a real 911 operator who spoke to an actress.

What would you tell your younger self about this work?
Keep it simple and not put too many ideas into one work. Keep it to the bare minimum. Don’t try and answer your own questions – let other people write the narrative. A picture has no script. The viewer has the narrative. Give people license. Keep it simple.

As well as Nadav Kander, Here 2016 speakers include illustrator Malika Favre, artist Bob and Roberta Smith, design director of The New York Times Magazine Gail Bichler and visual artist Yolanda Domínguez.

We will also be welcoming creative director at MTV Richard Turley, co-founder of Turner-prize winning collective Assemble, Joe Halligan and Omar Sosa and Marco Velardi, art director and editor-in-chief of Apartamento magazine.

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