Back to All Events

'Animalia' & 'El Malecón, Cuba'

Henry Horenstein has often been called “Perhaps one of the greatest photographers of his generation,” with a diverse career, from documentary photography to portraiture,spanning an impressive 5 decades to date and counting…

Born in Massachusetts in 1947, Horenstein studied under photography legends Harry Callahan, Minor White and Aaron Siskind, graduating in 1973. He speaks of the influence Callahan had on him:

Harry encouraged me to ‘Shoot what you love,’ and to pay no attention to what others are doing. ‘Even if you make bad pictures - you’ll have a good time.’ Thank you for that, Harry.” — Henry Horenstein

In this exhibition we will be showing 2 separate series from Horenstein’s impressive portfolio.



I think what exists in real life is more interesting than what exists in my mind … if you get really close to those animals, they are unbelievable,” — Henry Horenstein 

Taken between 1995 and 2000, Animalia’s abstract images encourage the viewer to see otherwise familiar animals in a new and different light. In this series Horenstein has created compelling and frequently ambiguous images that explore the patterns, textures and the geography of skin, scales and hair, which compel the viewer to stop, pause and look closely.


El Malecón, Cuba

In 2000 Henry Horenstein went to Havana, Cuba for ten days. “Ten days is a lot of time to kill so I walked up and down the Malecón.” says Horenstein.

He spent much of this time in Havana walking the five-mile long coastal seawall and boulevard. “People were friendly and I felt very safe.” He photographed it’s rocks, the sea and the harbour, but mostly he photographed the people “...and lots of them, all day and all night. It’s a great place to bring your family. Or, meet a friend for sex.” — Henry Horenstein 

One thing I did not want to do was simply document my animals, so I chose not to shoot in colour and not to show their environment. Rather, I choose to look closely and abstractly—to see my subjects for their inherent beauty, oddness, mystery. For this, I shot often with macro lenses, so I could get close, and worked with grainy, over processed film, printed in sepia to give them an old school, timeless feel.”

I tried to shoot as though I was in a studio. Like an Irving Penn or Richard Avedon—simple backgrounds that make you really look at the subject, not its surroundings. Get close and you see the hair on an elephant’s legs, an octopus’s single eye, a cow nose ray’s gull necklace. I admire photographers who can style or stage a subject to make their picture. But for me, what exists in nature trumps anything I can imagine. You can’t make up this shit.” — Henry Horenstein

In Animalia there is no backdrop of a natural landscape, nor the artificial world of the zoo or aquarium and each subject is devoid of their true colour. As a consequence, the images are truly arresting and we see these animals as we have never seen them before.

In (these images) Horenstein has succeeded to a dazzling degree, evading the abundant clichés of animal photography at every turn.” — Owen Edwards 

He photographed at all times of the day. When it was bright and family-filled at midday and in the early morning and at night, when it was almost empty except for “...random sketchy characters.” The result is an enchanting document of this place, which captures the beauty of the people who live there.

This is a series packed full of powerful portraits of young people diving into the water, kissing or just simply hanging out with friends. El Malecon became a record of what was for these people normality - their ‘everyday’ - the result is a collection of portraits (punctuated with observations) that are evocative of youth, yet beguilingly gentle and sublime.


Horenstein is an Artist, Photographer, Professor of Photography and Author who has written over 35 photography books and monographs. His photography has been exhibited in galleries and museums both nationally and internationally, including the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.; the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Fabrik der Kunste, Hamburg, Germany. His photographs are included in many public and private collections including the Library of Congress, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Smithsonian Institution's National Museum and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia.

Earlier Event: 20 April
Sheila Rocks!