Nat Finkelstein was one of the most respected photojournalists of modern times. Renowned for his iconic and intimate documentation of Andy Warhols infamous "Factory", and later for his political activism including an allegiance with The Black Panthers that forced him to live abroad for 15 years, Finkelstein remained at the heart of the cultural zeitgeist up until his death aged 76, 2nd October 2009.
This retrospective brings together Finkelsteins diverse portfolio of work achieved across five decades: from the Factory scenes, to the civil rights and anti-war protests of mid-60s America, to his continuing exploration of the subcultures of 80s and 90s New York; Nats photographs not only depict their subjects and scenes, but also provide a visual record of the life and times of the photographer himself.
After his expulsion from Brooklyn College where he first studied photography, for his fervent protest at the censorship of a college publication, Finkelstein trained under the legendary art director of Harpers Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch. It was after meeting Warhol and his band of freaks and followers at a Factory party in 1964 that Finkelstein was to take the most iconic images of his career; chronicling the scenes, names and faces of this underground world.
I stayed at the factory for close to two years. I watched pop die, I saw punk being born. I participated in a cultural revolution that shook the superstructure of our society. Nat Finkelstein
Finkelstein captured all the Factorys faithful inhabitants including Edie Sedgwick, Nico, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground and of course Warhol himself, as well as the luminaries whose cultural factions merely collided with the Factory set Salvador Dali, Allen Ginsberg, Marcel Duchamp, Bob Dylan and more. His images presented one of the most comprehensive and intimate insights into this exclusive world ever seen: from some of the most intimate and unguarded photographs of Warhol, to hauntingly soul-capturing photographs of Sedgwick and the moment where Warhol met Dylan.
Alongside his work at the Factory, Finkelstein became increasingly involved in the civil rights and anti-war protests of mid-sixties America. A staunch political activist himself, Finkelstein took pictures from beyond the barriers, depicting the spirit of a generation desperate to make a change a stark contrast to his self-obsessed, fame-hungry Factory subjects.
Following a near-fifteen year break from photography, living as a fugitive in the Middle East after fleeing a federal warrant for his arrest resulting from his associations with the Black Panthers, Finkelstein returned to his native New York in 1982 after the charges had been dropped. Ever the intrepid cultural explorer, Finkelstein remained at the cutting edge of the social extremes, managing the post punk band Khmer Rouge, and documenting the deviance and debauchery of the club kids of Manhattans Limelight club for his 1993 book 'Merry Monsters'.
A photographer whose work now hangs in the permanent collections of some of the worlds leading institutions and museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the V&A in London, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne and the Smithsonian Institute, National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, and has featured in such publications as 'Life', 'Time', 'Vogue', 'Rolling Stone', 'The New York Times Magazine', 'The Times', 'The Observer' and 'Harpers & Queen', Finkelsteins archive is brought together for this first ever major retrospective.
Eloise Rowley, Idea Generation Gallery Manager, commented: Idea Generation Gallery is privileged to be hosting this celebration of Nats life and work, a man who always lived at the cultural vanguard, and whose work always managed to be iconic yet genuine. From his unrivalled documentation of the inner-workings of the "Factory Scene", to his lesser known archives of political, erotica and club scenes, whist straddling various subjects and contexts, his photographs all remain testament to his continued exploration and infiltration of the subcultures of Western society.
"Nat Finkelstein: From One Extreme to the Other" runs from January 20 through February 14, 2010 at Idea Generation Gallery