An exhibit of Robert Bergman’s photographs goes on display Nov. 5, 2009, at Yossi Milo Gallery. It is Bergman’s first commercial outing, and will coincide with two debut solo exhibitions, one at the National Gallery of Art in D.C., and another at P.S.1. And all of this from an artist who’s never had a gallery show before.

Bergman has been taking photographs for more than 40 years. From 1985 through 1997, he traveled the Midwest and East Coast by car, making portraits of people he met by chance. They are luminously revealing and these online samples do not do them justice.

Bergman is not, however, a loquacious interview subject, as seen below; probably better to let the work speak for itself. All images copyright © by Robert Bergman, 2009. All rights reserved. Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

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What grabs you first when you spot a subject for a portrait? Is it how they look, what they project, the environment around them?

All of these elements must be present and available to intuition.

Where is the sublime in a good portrait?

That’s too philosophical a question and makes many assumptions. In the viewer and the subject and the forms? In the dissolution of conventional subject-object and viewer-art object dichotomies? I am not making any claims about sublimity in my work.

You’ve gone from never having a gallery to having two big museum shows. What’s sustained your faith in the work?

My faith in the work is what has sustained my faith in the work. I know that answer may seem tautological but—trust me—it is not evasive.

Have you ever gotten to know a subject that you’ve approached on the street?


What are you working on now?

A personal narrative, using pictures and words. Also, large color abstracts.


Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin