Max Waldman focused his medium, photography, on the nude, the actor and the dancer, with a palette of texture, form and light. He photographed a vision that remains in our mind after his images are no longer before our eyes. Many influences contributed to his visionary world. Images at once dramatic, melancholic , despairing and tormented, are rooted in his favorite artists; Bosch, Goya, Daumier and Rembrandt. Yet these images take life form the Renaissance, Shakespeare and the classical music he loved.
In the mid 60's ,Max Waldman gave up working as a commercial photographer. Friends Morris Carnovsky, Marcel Marceau and Zero Mostel became his first subjects. Waldman moved into a cramped studio on 17th street in Manhattan which he described as "a thimble of space, 15 feet by 18 feet with a ceiling ten feet high, lights and white walls". In this space he started on his quest to photograph "only what I wanted".
|To describe Max Waldman as theatrical gives us insight into his choices of theater and dance pieces. His attraction to avant garde theater, to the depiction of the darker side of life, is easily seen in the 1966 photographs of Peter Weiss' The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. The play, about a French asylum and the madness within, was a perfect vehicle for him. His style, grainy texture, dramatic light and dark shadows enhance the moment. The space surrounding the figures becomes as important an element as the figures themselves. Our eyes are riveted to the images before us.
The Marat/Sade photographs established his reputation as an imaginative interpreter of theater , and led to an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art organized by Peter C. Bunnell in July 1967. Besides Max Waldman's photographs, the works of Frederick Evans, Edward Weston, Clarence White and Minor White were exhibited. Waldman was delighted with the company. He felt that finally his artistic approach was being recognized.Bunnell described Waldman's images as sensuous, evocative and darkly veiled interpretations of the essence and gesture of theater.
Max Waldman was born in Brooklyn, New York , in 1919 of Romanian parents. At the age of eight, his father died; unable to support five children, his mother put them into an orphanage.
In the late 1930's, Max was part of the Civil Conservation Corps, where he first started photographing. He later went to Buffalo State Teacher's College and the Albright Art School. He also attended the Art Students League where he studied sculpting. In 1947, he traveled to Dade County Florida, where he photographed the Color Town photo essay.
He became a successful commercial photographer specializing in industrial, fashion and commercial photography. Books were very import to him, especially art history, aesthetics and Shakespeare. Oliver Darling describes his friend as mostly self-taught, a very determined person who was a perfectionist and a great lover of theater and classical music.
Waldman haunted the avant-garde theater with Darling in the 1960's and developing friendships with people like Rosemary Harris, Eli Wallach , Ann Jackson, Zero Mostel and Harold Pinter. His first published book of photographs, ZERO BY MOSTEL in l965 began as a collaboration between Darling and Waldman. "Max was to do the photographs, I the captions. After seeing the photographs, I told Max 'they don't need my captions, they stand by themselves".
With the publication of WALDMAN ON THEATER in 1971, his reputation was established. Morris Waldman, his brother tells of "everyone "coming to his studio; but despite his renown , it was a struggle to keep going from day to day. In fact, it would not have been possible to survive without Morris' financial support.
|Written by Lucille Tortora Curator ; Fine Arts Museum of Long Island|
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