‘Slow, quiet and slightly uneasy’: The work of legendary photographer Nadav Kander

President Barack Obama, Washington, 2009 (Nadav Kander/Steidl/Flowers Gallery)

Nadav Kander is one of the most revered photographers working today. He is probably best known for his work in portraiture, although he is highly accomplished in other aspects of the field as well. He has photographed some of the world’s most prominent figures, from former president Barack Obama to filmmaker David Lynch to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many more.

In addition to his portrait work, Kander has also pursued more documentary projects, completing work as varied as a study of the after-effects of Chernobyl and a beautifully rendered series on China’s legendary Yangtze River. And although his work is varied, it all comes from a similar interior place. His newest book, “The Meeting” (Steidl, 2020), provides vivid testimony to that.

In a conversation, included in the book, with noted writer, curator and artist David Campany, Kander lays out what drives his photographic practice.

“I’ve walked down one road since I started photographing when I was 13. I feel I haven’t deviated at all. I still need my work to strike the same chords in me that I’ve always longed and striven for. My photographs (however varied a viewer might find them) come from the same inner place. I seem to revisit a slowed-down reality, which is very beautiful and important to me. Slow, quiet and slightly uneasy, alluding to more going on beneath what you first see. The subconscious need to express what feels meaningful and profound never goes away. I just try many ways to revisit it, to come at it from different directions.”

Those words sum up Kander’s work perfectly. Whether he is photographing the president of the United States, the frontman of Radiohead or the daily life of people dwelling along the banks of the Yangtze, the results are never merely descriptive. They all reflect his authorial voice, transcending mere representation of people or places to involve the viewer in the interpretive process. As Kander says, “I don’t photograph to tell stories. I photograph to make stories possible. The viewer, if they hold their gaze long enough, becomes the author of the work’s meaning.”

Kander was born in the Israel, grew up in South Africa and now lives in London. His work has been published extensively and is represented in multiple collections, including those of the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.

You can see more of Kander’s work on his website, here.

[Editor’s note: This article previously erroneously stated Kander was born in the United Kingdom. He was born in Israel. This article has been updated to correct that.]

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

More on In Sight:

A photographer looks back at his work in New York City in the 1980s

Somewhere in Finland, a village dies while a river continues to thrive

These anonymous photos show what life was like decades ago