Charles Gatewood (1942-2016)

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of dear friend, multi-faceted artist, and photographer Charles Gatewood.

“Having friends like you is what it’s all about…,” wrote Charles Gatewood in 1976, upon reflection of his time in Syracuse as Light Work’s very first Artist-in-Residence. A self taught photographer, Gatewood led a wonderfully accomplished career, publishing seven acclaimed monographs, including A Complete Unknown , a 32-page handmade artist’s book featuring photographs Gatewood made of Bob Dylan in Stockholm, Sweden in 1966.”Taking the Bob Dylan photo gave me faith I could actually be a professional photographer,” said Gatewood. Occasionally doing work for magazines like Rolling Stone, his commercial work allowed him to photograph the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Joan Baez, Etta James, Andy Warhol, Annie Sprinkles, and many more.

Gatewood was the recipient of the NY State Arts Council CAPS Fellowships in Photography, the Art Director’s Club Merit Award, and the Leica Medal of Excellence for Outstanding Humanistic Photojournalism.

From a press release precluding his 1976 residency:

“During September, Charles Gatewood, photographer, will be spending the month in residency at Community Darkrooms. A self-taught photographer, Gatewood’s interest in people is evident always in his work. ‘I like people. Human behavior has always fascinated me especially when it is tied to strong emotion. As a photographer, I try to capture these emotions on film to remember, to communicate with others and to comment on what I have experienced.’”

1976Gatewood-CharlesHuman Pincushion, New York State Fair, 1976
Taken in Syracuse during Gatewood’s residency at Light Work

It was Gatewood’s generous donation of several prints that began what is now the Light Work Collection. Now an integral part of the history of the program, his gesture kickstarted a collection of photographs spanning over 40 years of artists that Light Work has had the pleasure of working with.

We extend our condolences to the family and friends of Gatewood.

Reflect on Charles Gatewood’s work in our collection here, as well as a brief video tour of his peronal archive, which contains several thousand modern and vintage prints, 250,000 slides and negatives, plus contact sheets, proof prints, personal papers, correspondence, books, and ephemera (see below). It also contains master edits of 36 documentary videos, plus three films (including a rare copy of Dances Sacred and Profane), and a choice collection of prints by other fine art photographers.