For internationally celebrated portrait photographer Bill Bernstein, photography is anthropology. Since beginning his career at the Village Voice in the 1970s, his methodology has been one of researching and representing contemporary cultures, sub-cultures and marginalized cultures through photography.
The breadth of Bernstein’s career has been spent peeking into 20 & 21st century "tribes"—including New York City’s disco days and 15 years touring at Paul McCartney’s side as his personal photographer—and apprehending their unseen dynamics, as well as the subtleties of his individual subjects’ lives.
Bernstein covered the unique and magical bubble of time of the late 1970s in New York City by focusing on the Discos and night clubs where inclusion and freedom of expression reigned on the dancefloor. This was a special time after Stonewall and pre-AIDS, where the manifestation of sexual liberation, Women’s Liberation, Civil Rights and equality was on display on the dance floor throughout the night. Bernstein was honored to speak at the Library of Congress in 2017 on his work during this period.
The openness of Bernstein’s style, like the film photographers who have long influenced him—Richard Avedon, William Klein, and Irving Penn—is classical, but current. Whether he is photographing the rockstars of U2, business titan Richard Branson, or the homeless of Bowery Mission, nothing about a Bill Bernstein image is superfluous. Rather, every photograph cuts through public persona to offer glimpses of the unguarded. Consistently, Bernstein can be called upon to deliver the full weight of his subjects’ personalities and render celebrities and civilians accessible to viewers via the immediacy of the moment.
Bernstein services an international advertising and editorial clientele including National Geographic TV, Time Magazine, Elle, New York Philharmonic, Warner Brothers and HBO. He is also the author of three books: Night Dancin’ (Ballantine Books, 1980), Each One Believing: Paul McCartney On Stage, Off Stage, and Backstage (Chronicle Books, 2004) and DISCO: The Bill Bernstein Photographs (Reel Art Press, 2015). His work is exhibited globally. Most recently, in the stand-alone exhibition, “Night Fever: New York Disco 1977-1979,” at Manhattan's Museum of Sex, The Galerie fuer Moderne Fotografie (Berlin), The David Hill Gallery (London), as well as an upcoming exhibit at Philharmonie de Paris in May, 2019, followed by the London Design Museum in April, 2020. His work is also featured in a traveling exhibit for the Vitra Design Museum (Weil am Rhein, Germany) and will be seen in various venues throughout the world until 2024.
He lives and works in New York City, his hometown.
Visit www.discobillbernstein.com for
Bill Bernstein's NYC Night Life/ Disco 1977-1979 work.