Burk Uzzle’s career, like his pictures, is a nuanced composition blending American culture, individual psyches of particular places or people, and an atypical way of seeing ourselves, our values, and our community. Always respectful yet locating the poignant or quirky, the history of his narrative belongs to all of us.
Initially grounded in documentary photography when he was the youngest photographer ever hired by LIFE magazine at age 23, his work then grew into a combination of split-second impressions reflecting the human condition during his tenure as a member of the prestigious international Magnum cooperative founded by one of his mentors Henri Cartier-Bresson. For fifteen years, Uzzle was an active contributor to the evolution of the organization and served as its President in 1979 and 1980. During the sixteen years he was associated with Magnum, he produced some of the most recognizable images we have of Woodstock (album cover and worldwide reproduction of its iconic couple hugging at dawn) to the assassination and funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. to our comprehension for the experience of Cambodian war refugees.
His archive spans almost six decades. His current work rests deep in photographic appreciation of the quiet, strong, and eloquent beauty he discovers in America’s small towns and its people. Uzzle’s current body of work is the production of artful and constructed reflections of his subjects, many of whom are African-American residents proximal to his studio in North Carolina. Their layers of experience are conjoined with Uzzle’s fundamental appreciation for unseen characteristics, which he ably captures in a collaborative, interpretive context along with his eye and his heart. interpretation, of art, of independently produced projects.
1979-19801984-19971997-200520062007Born in Raleigh NCStaff Photographer, News & Observer, Raleigh NCContract Photographer, Black Star Agency, Atlanta GA; Houston TX; Chicago ILContract Photographer, Life Magazine, Chicago IL; New York NYMember, Magnum Photos, New York NY, Paris FrancePresident, Magnum PhotosIndependent Photographer, New York NYIndependent Photographer, St. Petersburg FLIndependent Photographer, Seattle WAIndependent Photographer, Wilson NC
"Uzzle’s best pictures have a visual verve that places him alongside such greats as Robert Adams, Harry Callahan, and Ray K. Metzker."
— Vince Aletti, the New Yorker (2015)
"Like the best observers of this country, Uzzle displays an intuitive sensitivity to our national incongruities and harmonies. His subjects are classic Americana: beaches and parades, small towns and highways, a mix of the impossibly vast and the deeply local that gets at the heart of life here. Uzzle’s perspective combines the best qualities of those who’ve undertaken similar enterprises — the wit of Garry Winogrand, and the stylistic approach of New Topographics photographers like Robert Adams — while maintaining a certain Uzzle-ness that makes him entirely original."
— Jordan G. Teicher, Photograph Magazine (2015)
Photo credit: Janet Kagan
All those small roads, lined with feelings and a surety of surprise for the heart wide open, help me understand how America keeps it's personality out on a limb with itself. Born a Southerner with an affection and curiosity for every inch of all of America, my continuing journey has also enlarged itself within my studio.
Amazing and huge, my two adjoining buildings hold a century of uses and lives, their walls speaking of the passage and mystery of time. Offering not so much a specific narrative, but a monument to the power of the vague, these walls invite the imagination to find what it needs right there in front of it's eyes.
Their poetry of imperfection stand as an invitation to think of the nature of existence, and as an environment for photographing people, live, within a visual suggestion of an archaeological "dig." Here these people are, representatives of now, with no particular logic relating to these walls of time, with their individual transcendence offering history a look at contemporary life. On the road, between the walls, my hope is for a graphic presentation of something universal within the particular, and all the better when involving a gentle chuckle and knowing smile.
— Burk Uzzle