Hands up who’s heard of ART KANE?

After spending time studying atCooper Union, dodging bullets in WW2, then studying at Cooper Union again, Art Kane took various jobs as a junior designer.
At 26 he was made art director at Seventeen magazine, at the time it made him the youngest art director of a major magazine in New York. 
Art Kane 'Seventeen ad 2'Art Kane 'Seventeen ad 1''Art Kane 'Seventeen ad 4'
A few years later he started studying photography after work at The New School, under the most admired magazine art director in the world;  Alexey Brodovitch.
He taught Kane and many others, including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Diane Arbus, to go in search of the unseen.
His doctrine was simple; ‘Astonish me!’.
He starts to gain awards and recognition at Seventeen.
One day a friend, the art director Robert Benton, tells him that Esquire magazine want to do a feature on Jazz, and asks whether Kane, still an art director at Seventeen, could brainstorm a few ideas for a picture.
Kane suggests an idea; ‘I want to bring together as many musicians as possible photograph them. On 126th Street in uptown Harlem’.
At that point Kane had never taken a professional photograph and didn’t own a single piece of photographic equipment. 
Esquire Editor Harold Hayes liked the idea, so notices were put up in all the jazz clubs, and at the local Musicians’ Union office, announcing the photo shoot and informing the Jazzers that it was scheduled for 10am. (August the 12th, 1958).
Possibly showing his lack of experience, he organises the shoot for 10am August 12th 1958.
10am? A ridiculous time to shoot people whose lives revolved around late nights.
As one of them puts it in the documentary ‘Most of those guys didn’t know there were two 10 o’clocks in the same day’.

(Worth a watch if you’ve got the time, it’s great.)
Never the less, Charlie Mingus, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Gene Krupa, Art Blakey and fifty others turned up.
The novice Kane managed to keep them all in focus whilst pressing the shutter.
Art Kane 'Great Day 2'Art Kane 'Great Day In Harlem' Key
Not a bad result for his first commission; the best Jazz photo ever.

He then switches to photography.
His early work showing his graphic eye and background.
Art Kane 'Fabian:Plaster'Steve Frankfurt - Reynolds Cigarettes 'Skier'*It’s worth noting that when Kane became a professional photographer, ‘professionals’ used large format, plate cameras.
35mm cameras were looked down upon, considered amateur because 35mm film was felt to be too small for publication.
Art Kane loved 35mm, he used it almost exclusively.
It was liberating.
Because the camera wasn’t big and cumbersome it allowed his eye to keep moving, keep seeking the new.
It allowed him to shoot from angles that would never be considered if shooting with a large format camera.
His early pictures feel like he must’ve spent most days on his back or knees.
It made his images feel fresh, intimate and energetic.
Weirdly, although you don’t need to put a black cloth over your head with a 35mm camera, he did, in the form of his jacket.
“I looked ridiculous with my jacket over my head, because nobody would cover up like that when shooting with a 35mm, but I just loved that sense of alienation, of being totally removed from the outside world, as if I had my own little theatre available to me.”

Here’s an example, presumably shot whilst laying on his side on a dewy putting green, capturing an Arnold Palmer putt.Art Kane 'arnold-palmer-1963-photo-art-kane-1
Art Kane 'Model Looking Down'Art Kane 'Mobsters'Art Kane 'Hand Reach Model'Art Kane 'Stones Down'He may have looked odd, but images looked great; less formal and more intimate.TOWN 10 'Art Kane'-01TOWN 7-01Art Kane 'TOWN Cover'Colin Millward, Harvey's - 'Horse', Art Kane, CDP-03Steve Frankfurt - Y&R 'Computers'*His portraits show his art director background, they aren’t reportage, they’re ideas.
“I want to communicate the invisible elements in a personality”.

Art Kane 'Lenny Bruce 3'Art Kane 'Little Boy'
JOE LOUIS.Art Kane 'Joe Louis 2'
Art Kane 'Keith Richards:Queen'
Art Kane 'Bob Dylan'
ALI McGRAWArt Kane 'Ali McGraw'
Art Kane 'At Keith Moon's Drums'
LOUIS ARMSTRONG.Art Kane 'Louis Armstron' 2Art Kane 'Louis Armstrong 4'
CHARLIE PARKER.Art Kane 'Charlie Parker'Art Kane: Paper Dolls by Kane, ArtArt Kane 'Man & Mag'Art Kane 'The Jacksons' Life 1971Art Kane, 'Pool Dive'His 1968 article for Life magazine ‘THE NEW ROCK’ was seminal.Art Kane 'The New Rock' CoverArt Kane 'Ice Spread':LifeArt Kane 'Janis Joplin Spread'Art Kane 'Zappa Spread:Life'Art Kane 'Cream Spread':LifeArt Kane 'The Doors:Life'Art Kane 'Country Joe'In search of new ways to ‘astonish’, he comes up with the idea of making ‘film sandwiches’, as he he calls them.
Because we are all so familiar with Photoshop today the results look familiar.
But you have to imagine trying to do this back in the late sixties.
He would work with nothing more than a light box, scalpel and a magnifying glass.Art Kane 'London Sandwich'Art Kane 'Old Lady.:Wood Sandwich'Art Kane 'Venice Sandwich'Art Kane 'Boy:Gate Sandwich'Art Kane 'Old Woman & Accordian'Art Kane 'Moondog' 1963Art Kane 'What Do Women Think Of You?' Container Corporation of AmericaArt Kane 'Container Coprporation of America'Art Kane 'Venice:1969Here’s his letterhead from the around this time, feeling groovily sixties.Art Kane Letterhead:Heb Lubalin
Towards the end of the sixties Kane, like many other Americans, gets a conscience.
Shooting more symbolic images:
a) Sit-Ins. This one at Alcatraz.Art Kane 'Protest:Alcatraz Sit In'b) Viet Nam veterans.Art Kane 'Viet Nam Vet'c) Peace marches.Art Kane 'Dead Peace'
d) Race.Art Kane 'Boy & Flag' 2
e) Race again.Art Kane 'Black Man Tied'
f) And again.Art Kane 'Dead Boy?'g) The Viet Nam War.Art Kane 'Black Hands:Letter'h) Nuclear weapons.Art Kane 'Nuclear Power' -
h) The American judicial system.Art Kane 'Reuban 4i) America itself.WE THE PEOPLE DEF 001In the early seventies he moves studios and get his friend, Herb Lublin to knock a suitably seventies looking ad for the opening.Art-Kane 'Studio'-1Art Kane '& Work 2'
Around ’74, he joins up with internationally renowned pornographer Bob Guccione, to become Corporate Design Director for Penthouse & Viva.
Viva was a new magazine; ‘The International Magazine For Women’,  basically an erotic magazine for women.
As well as taking care of the design, he also shots many of the ‘stories’.Art Kane, Viva Cover '73Art Kane, Viva Cover 'Nudists - July '74Art Kane, Viva Cover 'Oct 1974'
Some, show signs of Brodovitch’s ‘astonish me’ mantra, like this.Art Kane, Viva 'Green Hair'Art Kane, Viva 'Red Hair'And I guess this.Art Kane, Viva 'Hairstyles 1'Art Kane, Viva 'Hairstyles 2'

Art Kane, Viva 'Hairstyles 3'
Most are more just soft porn, like this.
(NOTE TO EDITOR: There seem to be a lot of pictures of naked women in this International Magazine For Women?)Art Kane, Viva 'Flash'.jpgArt Kane, Viva 'Skirt'Towards the end of his career Art seems to have shot lots of semi-clad women as well as some cool portraits.
 ArtKane_Camera35_1978_100Art Kane, Book
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG. Art Kane 'Robert Rauschenberg 1974'TIM CURRY.Art Kane 'Tim Curry'
WHITNEY HOUSTON.Art Kane 'Whitney Houston'Art Kane 'Changing Room'
Some of the last images of Art’s were those for Cacharel.
I’m not sure what all the men are running away from, but the images are very evocative.Art Kane - Cacharel 'Balloon'Art Kane 'Helicopter Man'Art Kane - Cacharel 'Bridge'Art Kane - Cacharel 'Jump'One of the last portraits of Art.
Art Kane 'new-york-city-1979-by-michael-somoroff
Unfortunately, in 1995, Art Kane committed suicide by shooting himself.
He was 69.

Last year his son Jonathan put together a book of his father’s work; ‘Art Kane. The Eye of Photography’.
Check it out, he deserves to be remembered.

Art Kane 'Book' by Johnathan Kane

N.b. A Campaign Design & Art Direction article from 1982.Art Kane - Direction Article - 1982 (a)Art Kane - Direction Article - 1982 (b)

18 responses to Hands up who’s heard of ART KANE?

  1. rolph gobits says:

    Hi Dave,
    Art Kane did work with Paul Arden on a Daily Mail poster many years ago. If I remember correctly it was a girl with a chello in an empty room. This was done when Paul worked at Saatchi & Saatchi

  2. dave dye says:

    Hey Rolph,
    You’re right, I’ll add it.
    If my memory serves me right, Paul was disappointed that it was so grainy,
    so got a great photographer to replace him?

  3. Karin says:

    Hi Dave, thank you for sharing these images. I used to have a book on Art Kane’s work but it is long gone, Great to see so many familiar, wonderful photographs by him again.

  4. Myles Ludwig says:

    I hired Art to work at Viva. The photo of the nude couple on the beach was produced by me and short by J. Fredrick Smith in the Virgin Islands.

    • dave dye says:

      Thanks Myles, I’ll take it out.
      Do you still have copies of Viva? Or Nova for that matter? Or stuff of Art’s?

  5. CCWest says:

    Great article – amazing pics. Does anyone know why he took his own life?

  6. Robert P. E. says:

    My god, he is one of my favorite artists of all time. I have known his work well for a few decades.

  7. Pamela Twining says:

    Always been an Art Kane fan! i know his sons, Jonathan & Anthony, from their Kane Bros Blues Band days! i Love the Art inherent in his photos!

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