Gilden's curiosity about strong characters and individual peculiarities has been present since the beginning of his career. His first major project, which he worked on until 1986, focused on Coney Island, and on the intimacy of the sensual, fat, or skinny bodies sprawled across the legendary New York beach. During these early years Gilden also photographed in New Orleans during its famous Mardi Gras festival. Then, in 1984, he began to work in Haiti, following his fascination with voodoo places, rites, and beliefs. His book Haiti was published in 1996.
In June 1998 Gilden joined Magnum. He returned to his roots and tackled a new approach to urban spaces, specifically the streets of New York City, where he had been working since 1981. His work culminated in the publication of Facing New York (1992), and later A Beautiful Catastrophe (2005. Getting ever closer to his subject, Gilden established an expressive and theatrical style that presented the world as a vast comedy of manners.
His project After the Off, with text by the Irish writer Dermot Healey, explored rural Ireland and its craze for horseracing. Gilden's next book, Go, was a penetrating look at Japan's dark side. Images of the homeless and of Japan's mafia gangs easily bypassed the conventional visual clichés of Japanese culture.
Gilden, who has travelled and exhibited widely around the world, has received numerous awards, including the European Award for Photography, three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Japan Foundation fellowship. He lives in New York City.
Courtesy of Magnum Photos
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass
Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Paris, France
Galerie du Chateau d'Eau, Toulouse, France
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Canada
Paris Audiovisuel, France
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Penn
The Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England