Howard Greenberg | Interview
This is an excerpt from the interview with Howard Greenberg for the first issue of the printed version of 1605 Magazine.
Check out this excerpt from our interview with Howard Greenberg, a prominent figure in the world of photography. Howard Greenberg, born in 1948, is a collector, photography dealer, and gallery owner based in New York. His Howard Greenberg Gallery celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2022.
In this first issue of 1605 Magazine, we had the pleasure of chatting with Greenberg about his love for photography and his experience as a collector. If you want to dive deeper into his insights and stories, don't miss the full interview in our printed 1605 Magazine, available in the first issue titled "Reflection." Discover the world of photography through the eyes of Howard Greenberg, a true enthusiast and expert in the field.
Saul Leiter "Red Umbrella", c.1955, Saul Leiter Foundation, Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Five hundred exhibitions over 40 years, and I like to think that almost all of them were good exhibitions. My highlights from these four decades are not the exhibitions themselves, but the people I met on this journey. There is Saul Leiter, the great shining star of my life; William Klein, with whom I worked for 30 years; the super-talented street photographer Joel Meyerowitz; and, of course, the legendary Gordon Parks.
In the last 25 years, photography itself has changed a lot, with digital and other advancements, such as the advent of the digital camera, smartphones, Photoshop, and other editing programmes. Anything you could consider part of the current tools of making pictures made contemporary photography what it is today, opening the door to new kinds of photographs from the technical as well as the socio-political perspective.
In the past, the political side of photography — unless it was photojournalism — was a joke! From that, it has grown to include racial politics, LGBTQ+ communities, and commentaries about the extremes in society. It also expanded in terms of allowing photographers to delve further into the photographic technique and deeper into the subject, mainly because of changes in photographic equipment to more portable and easier-to-navigate equipment; not having to worry about reloading your film makes things less complicated.
William Klein "Smoke + Veil", Paris (Vogue), 1958, Estate of William Klein, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
Today, there are a few contemporary photographers represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, such as Bruno Roels, whose work I saw with Roger Szmulewicz’s at the gallery FIFTY ONE (Antwerp, Belgium). Roels’ work is great! It is a good example of what you can do with a photographic print. It shows how to create art and create transcendence. I like photographers whose work is rooted in the process of photography. I’m not sure of upcoming photographic trends, but I hope that photography goes back a little — not to analogue, but to more traditional values — and loses its superficiality. But of course, photography does reflect current events around the world and shows how everything is fragile and fractured.
It’s good if you want to study photography in the academy for the historical background and knowledge of the technical medium, but sometimes, it can be a trap. Sometimes, you learn too much, and it clutters your vision. Honestly, I think I had that problem as a photographer, and I had access to much less than people do nowadays.
Handball Players, Houston Street, New York, 1970, Estate of Leon Levinstein, Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York
I think the only way to do this is to work: to shoot, to print, to interact, and to learn more until you find your path. If you would like to make it in photography, my advice is the same as it has always been — find your voice. I don’t care how you do it, I don’t care what your tools are…the most important thing is to understand who you are in all this and where can you take your ideas creatively.
The most important thing on your photographic path is to find your thing and run with it and perfect it. Of course, it is not an easy road to take, and it is very competitive. But I think that if you have a great desire to say what you want to say visually and you work on that, success will follow.