Looking at Art, the Art of Looking

2014 INDIEFAB Finalist for Photography

In museums across the world, Richard Nagler stationed himself in front of his chosen piece of art, waiting for someone to come along and complete it. The serendipitous, unstaged encounters between art and individuals documented in Looking at Art are the results of that patience.

At first, the egalitarian relationship between person and artwork seems perplexing: the art is not relegated to the background, nor is the individual considered a disruption. In Nagler’s photographs, artwork and individual are presented as equals, each one mirroring and amplifying aspects of the other. The viewer takes on some of the power of the art by echoing an image or theme; and at the same time, the artwork takes on added depth by its momentary association with its viewer. The transformative power of art has been widely acknowledged, but Nagler also shows us art’s need to be transformed and given meaning by humanity.

Allen Ginsberg once said, “Every one of [Nagler’s] photographs brings to my mind a haiku.” Like that poetic form, these images display masterful skill and restraint, yet they also convey a sense of immediacy and undeniable vitality. A celebration of the connection between people and art, Looking at Art captures fleeting moments of wholeness.


“[Nagler’s] photographs offer a fascinating glimpse into his point of view and speak volumes about how we experience art.”—The San Jose Mercury News


“Looking at Art, the Art of Looking presents wonderful pictures by Richard Nagler, a sympathetic, curious photographer.”—Sandra S. Phillips, Senior Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


“With his candid camera lens Richard Nagler captures the encounter of art with the spectators—all kinds of people examine the art as the art returns their inspection, resulting in astonishing confrontations.”—Peter Selz, Professor Emeritus of Art History, UC Berkeley


“Not just looking at art, but seemingly transformed by their proximity to it, the people in Richard Nagler’s nuanced and layered photographs function as role models for how we should consider this beautiful book.”—Thomas Roma, Professor of Art and Photography, Columbia University


“Nagler’s sophisticated vision and extraordinary ability to be a fly on the wall with his camera always surprise as he joyfully expresses the relationship between creativity and the human condition. It’s a beautiful and revealing journey of discovery.”—Ken Light, Professor and Director of the Center for Photography, UC Berkeley

About the Artist

Richard NaglerRichard Nagler’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Artforum International, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications; shown in museums and galleries around the world; and included in prominent public and private collections. Nagler is respected as an observer with a unique photographic vision as well as a photography collector with a strong sense of history. Word on the Street is his third book of photography. He is represented by George Krevsky Gallery and currently lives in San Francisco.

Photo courtesy of Richard Nagler

Malcolm MargolinMalcolm Margolin is the publisher emeritus of Heyday, an independent nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution, which he founded in 1974. Margolin is author of several books, including The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco–Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the hundred most important books of the twentieth century by a western writer. He has received dozens of prestigious awards among which are the Chairman's Commendation from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fred Cody Award Lifetime Achievement from the San Francisco Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, the Helen Crocker Russell Award for Community Leadership from the San Francisco Foundation, the Carey McWilliams Award for Lifetime Achievement from the California Studies Association, an Oscar Lewis Award for Western History from the Book Club of California, a Hubert Bancroft Award from Friends of the Bancroft Library, a Cultural Freedom Award from the Lannan Foundation, and a Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. He helped found the Bay Nature Institute and the Alliance for California Traditional Artists.