Larry Fink has passed away

November 29, 2023

The American photographer and representative of New Social Photography, passed away on November 25, at his home in Pennsylvania. He was 82 years old.
Fink's documentary work was direct, honest and often ruthless. Whether capturing members of America's high society at lavish parties in New York City, or following the daily life of a family in his home town of Martins Creek in eastern Pennsylvania, his eye was precise, immediate and sometimes whimsical. His black and white pictures reveal moments that, even many years later, can be seen as representative of the existing class differences. Fink became known in the late seventies for his Social Graces series, in which he juxtaposed two societal worlds. In 1979, his photography was presented in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and published in a book in 1984. In his work, Fink always remained interested in social structures and socially-defined conditions. In addition to the rich and the beautiful, he focussed time and again on those often overlooked, creating series about the likes of boxers and lumberjacks. He worked predominantly with a 6x6 medium-format camera and flash. Leica cameras complemented his series whenever he wanted to break out of his rigid, square picture compositions. His imagery is defined by powerful and dramatic contrasts of light and dark. This made the people he portrayed appear rather like extras in small and dramatic theatre piece, scrutinising social and societal conditions.

Born on March 11, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, Fink was still a youth when he began taking photographs. His father was a lawyer, and his mother a political activist. Fink admitted later that the influence of his mother, as well as that of his teacher, Lisette Model, during his studies at the New School for Social Research in New York, was essential for his work. He lived on a farm in Martins Creek as of the 1970s. One set of neighbours in particular, the Sabatine family, were to become important as part of a series, where he contrasted their precarious everyday life with the New York upper-class phenomena.

In his nearly six decade career, Fink's numerous exhibitions and publications had a style-setting impact. In 1988, he was appointed Professor of Photography at New York's Bard College. He received numerous grants and awards. Since 2001, he was officially represented by the Robert Mann Gallery in New York, who also announced his passing on November 25.
Ulrich Rüter
Portrait Larry Fink: © Geoffrey Berliner; All other pictures: © Larry Fink, courtesy of the Bene Taschen Gallery, Cologne

Exhibition+-

The Bene Taschen Gallery in Cologne, that has has various presentations of Larry Fink's work, is hosting In Memory of Larry Fink: Boxing, an exhibition opening on December 2.

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Larry Fink has passed away