Michael Dweck is an award-winning photographer, who got his start working in advertising before turning his hand to fine art. His status saw him become the first living photographer to be given a solo exhibit at Sotheby’s New York, and he has also made two feature-length documentary films.
Best known for his images of surfing culture in Montauk, Michael Dweck’s work is widely recognized for its sensuality and style, often shot in stark monochrome. Discover our collection of Michael Dweck photographs for sale here at ArtLife, or read on to learn more about his life and work.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957, Michael Dweck was given his first camera by his father at the age of 7, in order to take pictures of the 1964 World’s Fair, which took place across New York City. This kindled his interest in photography as a hobby, though his formal studies initially revolved around architecture. Attending the Pratt School in his native Brooklyn, he switched majors to fine art and communication, having been reprimanded for a jokey project in which he designed a house for KFC mascot Colonel Sanders.
On graduating at 22, Dweck continued his training at the New School for Social Research, where he further explored his passion for photography, as well as learning about the field of semiotics. These twin interests led to his initial ventures in advertising, founding his own agency, Michael Dweck & Co., in 1980, before partnering with Lori Campbell twelve years later to form Dweck & Campbell.
Michael Dweck conducted advertising work for print and film, with high-profile clients including MTV, Dial-A-Mattress, and Comedy Central. However, after winning several advertising awards, he and Campbell parted ways in 1999, eventually shutting up shop two years later. This allowed him to focus solely on his photography, spending most of 2002 gathering images for his first show and book, 2004’s The End. Dweck’s themes within this collection revolved around his interest in surfing, as well as the women who lived in the area.
The images in The End were designed to immortalize a period of time in the city’s history that was soon to end, with Dweck telling Forbes his aim was “to capture the way Montauk made me feel…I wanted that collection of images to freeze Montauk”. Prints of some of the photographs from The End have since sold for tens of thousands of dollars, though since its release, Dweck has expressed concern that the book has raised Montauk’s profile, hastening the changes he had feared would come to the city.
Following on from the more popular images in The End, Michael Dweck’s next project, 2008’s Mermaids took a more fantastical approach, depicting a series of nude women in water. The photographs were taken using underwater flash photography, a relatively new technique which occasionally required the artist to get into the water with his subjects.
Three years later, he followed it up with Habana Libre, an account of Cuba’s wealthy creative class, including the first photographs of Fidel Castro’s sons the family agreed to have taken. The book, and its accompanying show, had a hugely positive impact on life in Cuba, with Dweck telling Sotheby’s: “I keep in touch with a lot of the talented artists I met there, and they’ve said to me, ‘thank you for letting us out’. It shows you the power of art.”
In recent years, Michael Dweck has also begun working in the medium of film, having worked on his debut, 2018’s The Last Race for some five years before its release. The movie, which Dweck has described as “a cinematic portrait of a Long Island stock car track,” had its premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, which also gave its follow-up, 2020’s The Truffle Hunters, its first screening. Both were met with typically rapturous critical response, and continue the themes of Michael Dweck’s photography as a time capsule for disappearing cultures.
Michael Dweck lives and works in Montauk and New York City.