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Curtis Knapp

Curtis Knapp’s award-winning portfolio is known for its simple straightforward aesthetic style. Since the late 70s, he has focused on portrait photography.

His subjects have included Brian Eno, Dennis Hopper, Andy Warhol, Slash, Steve Buscemi, Lou Reed, William Burroughs, Jim Carroll, REM, Branford Marsalis, Tim Burton, David Byrne, and actor Toshiro Mifune.
Curtis says he “knows how to set the atmosphere, make all comfortable to make a very fine photograph."

Curtis was born near New York City where he attended Parsons School of Design. In the early 70s while working in illustration in New York, he took his first images of Mink DeVille and Suicide. Liking the art scene, in 1977 he moved to Athens, Georgia, for almost two years and there made friends with, and photographed, the B52s.

After returning to New York in 1979, he devoted himself to making portrait photographs of downtown writers, musicians and artists. Within months of picking up the Hasselblad, he had a portfolio that won him assignments from GQ, Esquire, Interview, Rolling Stone and Art Direction magazine. Soon he was photographing covers for REM, Jim Carroll (which one a Art Directors Club Award) and Madonna's first magazine cover for Island magazine.

In 1984 he had the opportunity to meet Irving Penn. Curtis had long looked up to Penn and says, “An hour of his focused time going over my portfolio was worth more than any schooling which had come before. He made many things clear for me with a keen awareness and knew instantly what was good and what was not and over the years almost all he said has come true.” That year Curtis moved to Tokyo where he lived for 20 years, working for the top advertising agencies and music companies. He traveled often to the U.S. and Europe for major commercial advertising campaigns while always adding to his portrait portfolio.

In 2002 he returned to the States and taught classes at the Smithsonian Institute Associates in DC. “This was a very interesting experience for me and I may have gotten more from those classes than they,” he says. Also at this time his work was spotlighted for five years on the Hasselblad Camera website.

His commercial clients have included Gillette, Hugo Boss, Levi’s and Apple. He has photographed covers of Time, Playboy, B&W, and other magazines. He has published nine books of his work, four of which he calls “real books” with introductions by Slash, Timothy Leary and A.D. Coleman. His work has been featured in many exhibtiions and is included in the permanent collection of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.


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