When Everyone Is Taking Pictures

Ken Van Sickle may not be the first photographer to bounce skylight off the wet streets of New York, or to seize on the compositional opportunities afforded by the city under snow, but when melting snowflakes smudge his lens, creating little coronas of light that merge with billowing steam from a subway grate, the result is magical, synesthetic: an image of steam and snow, fire and ice, both hot and cold at once. The city seems prowled by dragons.

Grand Central Station – © Ken Van Sickle
Captain Liberty – © Ken Van Sickle
White Poodle – © Ken Van Sickle
Toile – © Ken Van Sickle
The warmth is more than just a matter of temperature. As keen an eye as Van Sickle has for the city’s powers of accidental abstraction he has too much curiosity about human motive to use his subjects merely for decoration. Those umbrella-bearers have their heads down for a reason.

It’s hard not to feel in Van Sickle’s Parisian photographs the unavoidable influence of Cartier Bresson, with whom he shared a teacher in Lhote, and a lifelong love of the Leica camera. In ‘Car Stop’ a woman photographed through the windscreen of a car, stands with her back to the camera, clutching a bunch of thistles. Did she stop to pick them? And what of those two motorbikes that appear to have caught her eye, speeding toward her?. In ‘White Poodle,’ a wary poodle peers from out the back door of a Volkswagon at the blurry street-scene going on in the foreground.  Should he leave the car, or keep his nose out of trouble and move along?

Three Foot Stairs – © Ken Van Sickle
The Regular – © Ken Van Sickle
Les Garcons – © Ken Van Sickle
Dry Dock – © Ken Van Sickle
Van Sickle also has an extensive film career and has worked on numerous cinematography projects including The Making of The Lion Kingin 1994, Marjoe in 1972, and commercials for international brands including Coca-Cola, Arm & Hammer, Revlon, L’Oreal, and Burger King.

Although decades have passed since Van Sickle’s photography work has been exhibited, in the past his works have been shown in prestigious museums and galleries including being the very first photography exhibition at Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) in 1960, Limelight Gallery (New York) in 1958, , Witkin Gallery (New York) in 1980, Soho Photo Gallery (New York) in 1988, and Galerie Thierry Marlat (Paris, France) in 2000.