An Interview with Robert Kalman

Robert Kalman is an exhibiting artist in Imminent Existence, Photolucida‘s Critical Mass TOP 50 (2022).

One view at the PCNW gallery from March 30 – June 4, 2023.

Robert Kalman (b. 1949, New York City; lives in Brewster, NY)

Michelle, 2021

Archival pigment print; 8×10 large format film capture

Image 13 x 19 inch diptych, framed to 16 20 inches

$800 (for purchase inquiry, please contact Erin at

I’m wondering if the Critical Mass review process brought about any meaningful connections with one or more of the reviewers?  

A few weeks after being named a Top 50 participant, I attended Foto Fest in Houston. I had the pleasure of meeting at least a half dozen of my reviewers in person. All of them were supportive of my work and expressed encouragement to continue my current project.

Please tell us about yourself and which part of the world you currently reside.

I reside in the Hudson Valley region of New York, and I have been making serious pictures since the early 1970’s. Since 1987 I have made work exclusively using a large format approach.

When did you first discover your love of photography?

My parents presented me with a Brownie for my tenth birthday. That was in 1959. I have made photographs ever since.

Please tell us about the individual piece that was selected to be included in this exhibit. Also, tell us a bit about the body of work that this is from.

The selected piece is part of a large body of portrait work about Americans, entitled “What’s It Like For You To Be An American?” The specific diptych of an American named Michelle Fujii along with her handwritten answer to the question is a poignant reminder of the complicated nature of Americans’ relationship with their nationality, their country and its history.  

Is it your intention to have your artwork bring attention to any current social issues? 

The Americans collection is being created during a particularly divisive moment in our history. By making portraits of Americans across the country it is my intention to help us remember that diversity and difference are embedded in our national character. The national motto, E Pluribus Unum, from many, one, needs to be revitalized as a part of our collective heritage and collective consciousness.

Who / what are your biggest influences?

Arnold Newman, Sally Mann, Eugene Richards, Vanessa Winship, Andrea Modica, Judith Joy Ross, Walker Evans, Paul Strand, August Sander

“Behind the Lens” – Do you have any interesting or funny facts about the creation of your piece?

The portrait is of Michelle, a gentle woman of Japanese-American heritage who writes about her ambivalent feelings regarding being an American. It was somewhat ironic that she was wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with knives.

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