Here is a little background information on the series from Steve,
The History: I was commissioned to photograph a portrait of Sir A.J.Ayer in London October 1988. He was very poorly but the ten minutes I was promised stretched to three hours, we got talking and by the end of our conversation he suggested I should make studies of other philosophers. From this sprung a series of 100 of the western worlds leading philosophers, including Noam Chomsky, Iris Murdoch and Jurgen Habermas.
A J Ayer, London, 5 October 1988 © Steve Pyke
Iris Murdoch, Oxford, 13 November 1990 © Steve Pyke
Jurgen Habermas, Frankfurt, 6 November 1991 © Steve Pyke
As I photographed each philosopher I would ask them who they felt was central or had influence on their own work. As the list grew, whenever the names cross-referenced I would write to them and try to arrange a sitting.
I prefer to photograph sitters at home, I don’t often however work with props or even show location, they seem sometimes to be a distraction in the portrait. Whilst with them I also asked if they could give me some idea in a few sentences what philosophy meant to them. I always use my old twin lens Rolleiflex, a camera I began my photographic work with thirty years ago.
It took nearly three years to photograph this generation of philosophers and culminated in a number of exhibitions. Many of the portraits are now in both private and public collections, such as the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Noam Chomsky, Boston, 29 May 1990 © Steve Pyke
This work was funded on my own faith, the sale of my apartment and a strong commitment from my gallery. It was originally published by Cornerhouse Publications (ISBN 0-948797-76-2) this edition quickly sold out and was republished by my gallery Zelda Cheatle Press. The resulting book Philosophers (ISBN 0 951837 18 4) is now very much sought after and is similarly in collections and universities worldwide.
Inevitably with a project of this scale there were philosophers that I wanted to include but was not able to at the time. Now 20 years on I have completed a second stage of this odyssey photographing the contemporary generation of thinkers. This amounts so far to another hundred portraits
One of the wonderful aspects of my journey through the faces of philosophy has been the correspondence, the erudite hand written letter and now the e-mails defining philosophy.
SP NYC March 2010
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