Larry Fink, an American photographer who captured class divides by documenting upper echelons of New York’s social circles, died at the age of 82 at his home in Pennsylvania. New York’s Robert Mann Gallery, which represented him, announced his death over the weekend, but did not specify a cause of death.
Fink gained wide exposure in the late 1970s after publishing his series “Social Graces.” In these images, Fink pitted two worlds against one another, picturing both the Sabatines, a family in the rural town of Martin’s Creek in eastern Pennsylvania, where he was based, and the social elite who populated different cities. Works from the series were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in a 1979 solo exhibition; Aperture published a monograph that featured them several years later.
Born in Brooklyn in 1941, Fink was raised by his Bernard Fink, a lawyer, and Sylvia Caplan Fink, a left-leaning activist. He took up image-making in his early adolescence, eventually becoming a mentee of Lisette Model, the Austrian-born American street photographer, while he was studying at the New School in New York.
During his six-decade long career, he repeatedly out Model’s mark on his work while also crediting as the views of his Marxist mother with influencing his art. In 2011, Fink told the New York Times, “That set of contradictions embellished my politics and aesthetics. The work was meant to be political, not polemical. It turned out to be not necessarily kind, but certainly honest. And not cruel.”
By 1958, when he was 18, Fink had quit school and found a job photographing a group of artists and writers associated with the Beat movement, traveling from New York, to Texas, Ohio and Mexico to record their adventures in each state. Fink later returning to New York and, during the mid-’60s, captured Andy Warhol’s inner circle during candid moments.
By 1976, Fink had developed his signature style, shooting high-contrast black and white images with a flash that caused his subjects to appear alienated. The experiences earned him recognition, gaining him a Guggenheim Fellowship. Two years later, he met and befriended Robert Mann, a New York photography dealer, who started representing Fink officially in 2021.
By 1988, Fink had joined the faculty at Bard College as a professor of photography.
In the late 1990s and mid-2000s, Fink delved into the worlds of sports and entertainment, capturing violence and luxury through commissioned projects for magazines like Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. Between 2000 and 2009, he produced two collections, “Runway” and “The Vanities: Hollywood Parties 2000–2009,” both chronicling niche social scenes, from stag parties to private soirees attended by luminaries in American entertainment.
In 2018, when images from the 1999 series “The Boxing Photographs” were displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fink shared a class-conscious perspective derived from his close observation of the sport and its victors. In a Times interview, he remarked, “It’s American exceptionalism; the exceptional body and mind.”
Fink shifted to a more contemplative phase with age, photographing the landscape around his Martin’s Creek home. One of his final projects was a commission for the Economist: a photograph of another Larry Fink, the BlackRock mogul who has ranked on the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list. A monograph devoted to the photographer Larry Fink is set to be published by powerHouse Books and will feature some of his early images.
Reflecting on Fink’s distinctive approach, Mann outlined how the photographer was unapologetically assertive in his pursuit of images. According to the gallerist, Fink had a unique tact for capturing unstaged scenes. “The energy and style he brought to the photography medium are unparalleled. I’ve never seen someone else execute it quite like that,” Mann said. “He operated as a free agent in every respect.”
Fink is survived by his partner, Martha Posner, and his daughter Molly Snyder-Fink from his first marriage to painter Joan Snyder.