Candyland's Prince: Remembering David Armstrong

Written by Beth Hancock

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I had the pleasure of working with photographer David Armstrong editing his portfolios and archive between the years of 2008 and 2012. I visited him several times at "Candyland," the name he gave to the beautifully dilapidated brownstone that served for many years as his home and studio in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. He was always a gracious host and electric conversationalist, and we'd often pass hours talking. There was no topic on which he didn't have commentary, and his razor-sharp wit was as formidable and affecting as his staggering artistic talent. Since he was a photographer whose work I'd admired long before meeting him, it was gratifying to see that his intelligence and sensitivity matched the subdued beauty and complexity of his photographs.

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David's relationship with his longtime friend Nan Goldin was the stuff of art school mythology. They began as classmates at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, then became best friends, and later roommates and collaborators. Their respective representations of the place and time in which they forged their early artistic identity--New York's East Village during the 1980s--constitutes a compelling dichotomy in shared visual experience. His gentle, observational, and restrained; hers provocative, participatory, and confrontational. They shared their lives, their friendships and their subjects, the documentation of which resulted in several important and influential photographic series. In 1994, they co-published a book of their work together entitled A Double Life.

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Later in his career, David began to work on assignment photographing fashion. Though I find his early portraiture to be his most impactful work, it is testament to his talent and skill that this later work is consistent with its predecessor in its controlled execution and elegant aesthetic. The creator of numerous photo books and a regular contributor to Vogue Paris, Another Man, Self Service and V Magazine, David effortlessly straddled the arenas of art and commerce and leaves behind a body of work that is characterized first and foremost by its artistic integrity. Rest in peace, David. Visits with you at Candyland will be dearly missed.

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All images © David Armstrong

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