Glenn Losack is one of Ugallery’s most celebrated photographers. Born and raised in New York, Glenn picked up a camera at a young age. Since retiring from the medical field he has traveled the globe capturing scenes from Ireland to Bangladesh. Along the way, Yoko Ono purchased his photograph of The Lennon Wall in Prague.
Last week I met up with Glenn in the Lower East Side. Dig into our interview below to learn more about Glenn’s life as a photographer and renaissance man:
When did you start shooting photography? What drew you to the medium?
I was 17 years old and living in Brooklyn. I was fascinated by the visual process of pictures appearing in trays filled with chemicals. And I thought it would impress the ladies!
How does your work as a physician impact your art?
I dont know if there is a direct relationship. One thing that’s true is that monetarily my day job supports my two addictions: creating photographs and making music.
I’ve been semi-retired for the past 17 years. I’ve been able to travel around the world and shoot and learn photography and music because of being a physician I’ve been given access to many places other photographers would never have access to.
I tend to shoot what’s inside of people and not just the outside. I shoot the disenfranchised, the homeless, deformed, diseased and the downtrodden; the people that are ignored or forgotten. The poor of the world. This might have something to do with a psychiatric opinion of society as a whole. The world has its beauty and its unsightliness and I think both are beautiful.
Glenn’s photograph “Yoko” (at left) is available for purchase.
What’s the story behind Yoko Ono purchasing your photograph?
Yoko and I met through a mutual friend who is one of my biggest supporters. This friend ended up showing Yoko the “Yoko” photograph [see above] and before I knew it the photo was a part of Yoko Ono’s permanent collection. She even sent me a hand written letter thanking me for my work which was particularly flattering because Yoko is known for not giving her autograph!
The “Yoko” photo is still a fan favorite. For me, it’s just thrilling to know that one of my photographs graces her permanent collection of Yoko. I am a Beatles fanatic and to this very moment believe there has never been a better musical era than when John and Paul were writing and innovating. I could go on and on about them but Yoko in part symbolizes my connection to one of my idols. It’s a real honor that I will be forever grateful for!
The “Yoko” photograph diverges from what much of your work highlights - the “dark side of humanity”. What drew you to this subject? When did you first realize your photography was taking this frame?
I shoot the beautiful as well as the darkside of humanity. I shoot both!
That said, the darkside of humanity is what really underlines my photography spiritually and excites me more than any of my other work. It is a bond i think i have with the underprivileged. My father was a truck driver and introduced me to the seedy part of Manhattan in the early 1960’s. He was an amazing commercial artist who unfortunately never got a chance to accept his scholarship to Cooper Union. My mother tried to protect me from “real life” and ever since I have veered towards the darkside of humanity.
I also have a big darkside and a wry cynical sarcastic view of the world. I turn it into humor but I at times it can offend. Sometimes self hatred drives the artist in me.
Some of your pieces also play with a symmetrical effect. What was the inspiration for this series?
I saw symmetry as a way of looking at pieces and seeing more to them than just what was on the surface. It also beautifies the subject, and brings a deeper discussion if you look closely at the pieces. They should be printed mural size to really maximize the message.
How do you select your scenes?
I dont look for photos. I walk and I walk and I walk and I walk on the streets of India, Bangladesh, the Caribbean…in slums wherever. There is art everywhere.
Beyond your medical and photographic work, you mention you are also a musician and a charity worker. Can you talk a bit more about your other pursuits?
I have a website for my music. I have, I think, evolved into a songwriter and maybe even a singer-songwriter. It’s a passion I’ve had since I first heard Sinatra and The Beatles and everything that followed. I cant live without music and photography and my song “Powerful” says it all.
I also make charity work a priority. I donate time and money and photographs. It’s important to give if you are going to take. I’ve traveled to 50 nations since 1986 and am partial to third world nations. India is the most interesting photogenic place I have been and will continue to shoot in. I love the big chaotic cities where people live outside not inside like in the West.
Is there anywhere left on your list of places you’d like to travel to?
I’d love to visit omo tribes in Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and the Southern Sahara.
With such amazing digital cameras available these days, it seems everyone’s a photographer. What’s your secret to doing it well?
I dont think there is a secret. Most people don’t mind if they shoot well-framed, intense photos and that’s fine. Often I’ve found people also stand too far away from their subject. To be a great shooter you have to have courage you have to get close up.
You also can’t ask people if you can take their pictures (I swear by this). There is an automatic chemistry that evoles immediately with your subject that is unspoken. You have to experiment and do all kinds of things. Many times - and I’m sorry to say this - you do shock your subject or anger them. That’s all part of the process. I shoot the darkside and I have to take risks and chances. It is what it is.
Thanks so much Glenn!