My pictures are not about what you might call “consensus reality.” In fact, I’m much more interested in photography’s ability to interpret and transform the world than to record it. I’m fascinated by the persistent myth that “the camera never lies” and by the question, “What is reality, anyway, and do we have a hand in creating it?”
Sometimes art-making seems more like midwifery than creation. Inspiration arrives from some magical place. I’m interested in that place, and I’m interested in helping others find that place, too. My workshops are about connecting intuition, process, and technique (July 28–August 2 at the Santa Fe Workshops, and August 25–31 at the Maine Media Workshops), and I really enjoy working with photographers one-on-one to help them find their voice as artists.
My work has been published and exhibited widely, and “Vestiges of Industry: Maritime Studies” (which celebrates the worn and ravaged beauty of pre-computer-age machines and technology, and features images of several touchstones of New York’s vanishing seafaring heritage) is currently on view on the Lilac, a Coast Guard cutter that’s retired and docked at Pier 25 in Manhattan. Come see it!
Richard Sandler is a street photographer and a documentary video and filmmaker.
His first monograph, "The Eyes of the City, was published in 2016 by Powerhouse Books.
Sandler’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the New York Public Library,
the Center for Creative Photography, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Historical Society,
and the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
He has directed and shot eight non-fiction videos and films including, "The Gods of Times Square,” (1999), "Brave New York” (2004), “SWAY,” (2006) and "Radioactive City” (2011).
He was awarded two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships for still photography, a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship for filmmaking, and a New York State Council on the Arts grant for filmmaking.
My longest relationship is with longing itself. It’s an enigmatic companion serving a wisdom I don’t always understand. As a photographer, I use this longing to push me to engage more deeply with the world.
I came to photography in Malaysia while making audio recordings of Burmese refugees who had been sold to human traffickers. At the time, I was neither a photographer nor a journalist—I had an MFA in poetry, and I’d been traveling to Asia to study Buddhism. On one of these trips I learned several Burmese people I’d met in Kuala Lumpur had been trafficked and I was compelled to do something with all I had. I broke the story, and PBS broadcast it. Following that, I received a Pulitzer Center grant to continue my reporting and I taught myself how to use a camera to take my coverage further.
When I arrived in Cuba in 2015, I felt my first love—poetry—could somehow be manifested through image-making, and I left traditional documentary behind. To me, there’s a palpable sense of yearning on the island. I identify with it; it welcomes me.
Within this emotional landscape I encounter Cubans—from young to old—seemingly able to embody strong self-confidence, as well as vulnerability. I wonder what allows them to inhabit these opposing ends of the emotive spectrum so freely? I search for this fierceness and fragility; the presence of both creates a moment of unexpected intimacy for me. Like a poem does, or a dream.