My work responds to violent turning points of modern history, how they have formed our world, and what it means to inherit such collective traumas. I mourn, memorialize, and activate these intractable episodes by recording performances at my home and through visiting sites of past atrocities. At home I explore the roles of perpetrator, victim, bystander, and observer, while at sites I photograph tourists, signage, architecture, and landscaping. My recent work includes social practice, in collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
My primary media are photography and video but I also draw ideas and materials from a range of practices including land art, outdoor sculpture, studio art, installation, and endurance labor. My presentations vary from multi-disciplinary and interactive to traditional exhibitions of photography and video.
My mother was Anglican and my father Jewish. Although only collateral members of my father’s family were caught up in the Holocaust, that connection underlies my concerns. As a British-born naturalized US citizen, my mixed origins and migration often lead me to frame my ideas with questions of home and belonging.
Statements for individual projects are linked from their respective pages.
Ben Altman (b. 1953) trained as an artist by studying Physics, towing icebergs, racing sailboats, and working in commercial photography. A naturalized U.S. citizen of British origin, his work responds to episodes of mass violence and what it means to inherit such histories.
Altman has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, Individual Artist and Artist Support Grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, and a New York Foundation for the Arts NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship. Other awards include the Houston Center for Photography’s 2015 Fellowship and the 2015 Critical Mass Top 50. He has exhibited widely.