300 b/w images
40,000 words text
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There are few portraits in recent American photography more intimate or remarkable than Marc Asnin’s Uncle Charlie series
Michael Kimmelman The New York Times.
Marc Asnin has been photographing his Uncle Charlie for thirty years. By the early 1980s when Asnin was studying photography, the reality of his uncle’s life had trampled his boyhood fantasy. As a child Asnin was motivated by his admiration of Uncle Charlie as a big, streetwise strong guy with a gun. Charlie and his five children (Charles, Joe, Brian, Mary, and Jamie) lived together in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Frail, depressed and emotionally vacant, unable to work, unable to even leave his apartment, Charles Henschke was a shell of a human being.
Uncle Charlie is an extraordinary visual and reading diary that details the life of his godfather, Charlie, and his struggles with mental illness, isolation, poverty and familial relationships.
Asnin chose to use photography as the means to reconnect with Charles Henschke, an extremely complex individual. The result is a journey that became almost an obsession to confront, examine, and understand some very disturbing truths about his uncle and family. The book is an exceptional object with a strong lay out that includes a visual treatment of the long text and the documents concerning the life of Charlie, as told by himself during many hours of recorded conversations with Marc Asnin, edited by Beau Freelander.
This book is a new, great effort to mix documentary photography and literature, each at their best.
Uncle Charlie is an unprecedented long-term documentary project.
“People often ask me what Uncle Charlie is about. After thirty years, one would think I would be able to easily sum it up. But this book is life, raw unintelligible life; the life of one man, my uncle, and as in life, there are no easy answers or summaries. It's about broken dreams, disappointment, and having the resiliency to find slivers of happiness in an oppressed existence. It's about consequences, missed opportunities, delusions and loss. It's a collaboration of sorts: his words and my images. It's my dance with my godfather.”
Marc Asnin is based in New York City and has been photographing for more than twenty years. He developed a curiosity for photography as a child growing up in Brooklyn, inspired by his father, an advertising photographer. Marc’s resume is extensive. His various awards include the W. Eugene Smith Grant, the Mother Jones Documentary Award, and the Alicia Patterson Fellowship. He has also taught at institutions such as the International Center of Photography and the School of Visual Arts.