NEW YORK, NY.-
A New Yorker by birth and a Frenchman by naturalization, Ken Dreyfack's life has been divided between two countries, languages and cultures. He began his career as a journalist and writer, working in the broadcast and print media in New York, Paris and Chicago. When he moved back to America in 2008 to settle in Kingston, New York, he became seriously engaged in his second career as a fine art photographer and began work on the photo book Silent Stages that will be published by Daylight next month.
The striking black and white photographs in Silent Stages
, mostly taken at night, were made by Dreyfack over a period of five years (2014-2019) in his new home in upstate New York, in New York City where he was born and raised, and during return visits to his former home in Paris. The photographs in Silent Stages function as silent movie sets or theatrical stages where dramatic, soulful narratives play out in the dark, deserted streets of New York and Paris. Distinctively urban, the images extenuate the interplay between dark shadows, rich blacks, sharp contrasts, and artificial light that conjure up a sense of mystery and foreboding.
At the same time, Silent Stages consists of artifacts from various stages of the artist's life, visual traces of the sedimentary layers that have quietly accumulated atop one another. Dreyfack sees them almost as relics from a personal archeological dig -- a layered visual memoir that emerges from his Franco-American identity. The resulting images reflect the dual nature of Dreyfack's life and culture.
"As artifacts from my own story, the images give voice and body to times, experiences and feelings I hardly knew lived within me. It was only years after the project was undertaken that I began to understand how the choices I made -- of subjects, settings, lighting, composition -- reflected the particularities of my life and sensibility. My objective was not to highlight the Franco-American split, but rather to demonstrate the parallels and how they come together into a single identity."
When he was working on Silent Stages, Dreyfack would start by combing the streets for a suitably dramatic setting, one that offered sharp, angular shapes, stark lighting and a hint of mystery. "I'm seeking a background that could almost be a painted backdrop, a silent movie set, with balsa wood props fabricated and arranged for this specific scene." Then he waited for something to happen, perhaps for "players" to enter or exit the scene.
Asked why he spent so much time roaming the nighttime streets, Dreyfack quips that he "sees better in the dark." As David A. Ross notes in his introduction, Dreyfack explores "the ways that light can be represented within [a] world of darkness ... the struggle of man-made light against the eternal dark. In other words, he is exploring a central modernist motif."
A self-taught photographer, Dreyfack is influenced and inspired by moviemakers such as Orson Welles and Fritz Lang and painters including Edward Hopper and Georges de la Tour. The photographers whose work has had the greatest impact on him include the French humanists, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau, and Edward Callahan, especially his French Archives images shot in the bright sunlight of Aix-en-Provence.
Ken Dreyfack is an acclaimed fine art photographer and journalist whose images have appeared in galleries throughout the United States. As a journalist and commercial writer, Dreyfack worked in the broadcast and print media in New York, Paris and Chicago. He has been seriously engaged in photography since his return to the US a decade ago. Ken serves as co-moderator of the Photographers' Salon at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW). In recent years, Dreyfack's work has been selected by jurors including Elizabeth Avedon, Kristin Gaylord, David A. Ross, Aline Smithson, Paula Tognarelli and David H. Wells for group exhibits at the Site:Brooklyn and Foley galleries in New York City, the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, CO., the Griffin Museum in Boston, the Greg Moon Gallery in Taos, NM, the Sohn Gallery in Lenox, MA, among others. A solo exhibit of his work was held in September 2017 at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM). Dreyfack won second prize for The Photo Review's 2018 competition, juried by MOMA photography curator Sarah Meister. His work was selected for Photography Now 2018 at CPW, won the Silver Award in the 2019 San Francisco Bay International Photography Competition, and was awarded second prize in the 2019 Texas Photographic Society Urban Landscape exhibition at the Silos in Houston. He was named featured artist of the month in May 2020 by the Davis-Orton Gallery in Hudson, NY, which will exhibit a selection of images from Silent Stages in April 2021.
David A. Ross has a 40-year career as an art museum professional and educator. He is currently the Chair of the MFA Art Practice program at the School of Visual Arts. Career highlights have included curatorial and senior leadership positions at the Everson Museum of Art, the Long Beach Museum of Art, and the University Art Museum at UC Berkeley; and directorships at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, the Whitney Museum, and at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Ross was also the Co-Founder and President of the Artists' Pension Trust (a pioneering financial planning program for working artists), has lectured at various universities across the country, and has served as juror and commissioner at a broad range of international shows and exhibitions.