July 9, 2009


GriffinEditions begins its interview series with Jonathan Kane of the Art Kane Archive. We recently sat down for our very first interview with Art Kane’s son to talk about the life and work of this great photographer.

Stay tuned as Griffin Editions continues these dialogues with various artists.

•As a child, were you aware of the importance of your father’s images? When did you decide to manage his archive?

It was easy to be aware of the importance because his work was so culturally pervasive. It was nearly impossible to pick up a major magazine in the heady days of the 1960′s and 1970′s and not find his images, not to mention on album covers, billboards and on friends bedrooms walls. But for me what resonates personally are memories of his Carnegie Hall studio, in which one wall was covered with laminates of tear sheets and printers proofs. It was stunning, inspiring and a bit overwhelming. My wife Holly Anderson and I took over his archive after his death in 1995.

•Which are the most important images to you? Which ones are being shown the most?

The music images tend to be shown the most, and I can certainly understand why. In many cases these pictures define those performers more than any other photographs of them. The Who wrapped in the British Flag, Aretha Franklin with halos in her eyes, Jim Morrison behind the television set, Sonny and Cher clothed, underwater, The Harlem 1958 Jazz group portrait, I could go on. Other photographers have imitated many of these images over the years. Most important to me though would have to be his ‘sandwich’ images. This was a technique he invented in the early 1960′s by layering 2 Kodachrome transparencies together; creating highly provocative effects that pre-dated digital imaging by 30 years. Venice sinking, Christ in an electric chair, the young man’s face behind the ghetto gate for a civil rights story…. and many others.



•Was your choice to become a musician influenced by the images of the music scene your father took?

Not really, but it didn’t hurt! I became a blues purist at age 11, and didn’t really care about rock musicians until much later in my life. Dad brought me a pair of Keith Moon’s drumsticks from the Who shoot, but I, unimpressed, used them until they broke and tossed them in the trash. Of course I regret that now! Ha! Actually, my dad was himself a pretty good musician, playing a bit of guitar, drums and harmonica, and even wrote a minor hit song around 1950 called ‘Oh What a Face’, which was featured on a hugely popular radio show called ‘Songs for Sale’…. but my mom’s father was a bitching good ragtime pianist, and I think my music came more from her side of the family.

•Has it been a challenge to continue to reproduce the images in the archive with all the changes that happened in photography in the last few years?

Art Kane shot almost entirely on 35mm, most of which was Kodachrome slide transparencies. We have been in the process of digitizing the archive over time, and depending on the application, some scans have had to be much larger than others. In this area Griffin Editions has been amazing to work with. Wall sized digital images with incredible depth and clarity, but still maintaining the warmth and integrity of the original chromes. It’s not that different from music. To many people, myself included, analog process vinyl records, with skips, pops and all… sound better than what gets churned out now in digital perfection. The twofold objective now, is to make new art that is possessive of those qualities, and to artfully remaster /digitize existing work so it’s not cold and sterile.

•How do you see the future of this archive? Or any private archive? Is the distribution mostly electronic, or is there still a demand for prints to be framed?

It’s all about both. I believe eventually most people will utilize electronic delivery systems to view art, but there will always be a demand for prints. Again, to draw a parallel to music, even though most people download their music digitally, there are still vinyl collectors, and in fact their numbers are growing. The good thing about new media is that it gives people more access to the choices out there, without having to depend on what other, often short sighted people decide you should be looking at or listening to. It’s all positive.

Aretha Franklin