Dan Ziskie: Cloud Chamber
“New York is known for the streams of people on the streets. For me, walking with a camera, it is as if these people are talking to me as they pass, trying to tell me something that I, in my limitations, can only make out in small fragments. And yet, eventually, putting the fragments together, a story emerges. And what is the story? What is it the people are telling me? It is the story of what it is to be alive in New York, now.”—Dan Ziskie
Street photography in 2018 is a challenge — we live in a heads-down, cell phone addicted world, where we push the anxiety and stress of city life into internal spaces. Photographer and American actor Dan Ziskie changes that description with his emotional photographs that use the streets as a stage set to create an exquisite opera of the human condition. His subjects play out personal dramas in photographs that are filled with angst, gesture, and visual confusion creating a form of kinetic theatre performed daily on the streets, all set to the sound track of jackhammers, taxi horns, and the rumbling of subways.
Ziskie writes that within New York’s pulsating street life people’s actions “reflect and bounce off each other … but you sometimes find a sense of privacy. As if you were for a moment alone. And that’s often where I look to take my picture, inside the cloud chamber of New York City.”
Ziskie has a new book of this work, Cloud Chamber, recently published by Damani. This is his first monograph, presenting contemporary color photographs taken in Manhattan between 2013 and 2016. He will be having a book signing at Rizzoli in New York City on Thursday, February 8th, 2018.
Dan Ziskie is a Manhattan-based photographer and actor. As an actor, he is best known for his recurring role of Vice President Jim Matthews on House of Cards and the politically connected banker in post-Katrina New Orleans in Treme, among other parts. He began photographing in the early 1970s in Chicago while working for the commercial photographer Curt Burkhart. During this period, he also began to work in improvisational theater and in the off-Broadway and experimental theater scene that was developing at the time.
Dan Ziskie’s series of photographs about Chinatown entitled East of Broadway was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon in 2011, and has been featured in The New York Times. His group shows include Sex/Love at Umbrella Arts, New York (2013), Open Water at the Kiernan Gallery, Lexington, VA. (2013), Street Shots — New York Street Photography Survey, Museum of the City of New York/South Street Seaport, New York City (2012), Visual Proof, Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle, WA (2004), among other venues. His work is also held in the collection of the Portland Art Museum and private collections.
New things, different things, happen only because of what happened just a moment before. Our actions reflect and bounce off each other, sometimes literally, on the streets of New York, leading to the constant evolution of events that would not happen otherwise, or elsewhere. And as you walk amid the jackhammers, the horns and the parades, inside the sense of constant emergency that can seem to exist…you sometimes find the sense of privacy. As if you were for a moment alone. And that’s often where I look as I try to take my pictures, looking inside the cloud chamber of New York City.
What I find is that, for me, New York is not so much the story of people passing in their multitudes, but rather the story told as if people, in their multitudes, were speaking to me as they pass, but in my limitations I can only make out a few things every now and then. And what are they saying? What are they telling me? They are telling me the story of what it is to be alive here.—Dan Ziskie
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