“Smoke” pays homage to Benjamin, an American underground singer, poet, and cultural icon, as well as to Cabbageton, an underprivileged neighborhood in Atlanta. Conceived as an album, it seamlessly blends Michael Ackerman’s photographs, Benjamin’s personal notes and historical documents, along with writings contributed by Jem Cohen and Patti Smith. This work unveils the timeless elegance, immediacy, subtlety, and exuberance of a marginalized individual from a forgotten era.
“I vividly recall my initial visit to Benjamin’s residence, my first experience in Atlanta. It was late at night, following a Smoke performance. He and his friends were gathered in his room, engaging in conversations, laughter, and shared moments while enjoying their cigarettes. I had just met him and couldn’t fathom why I had been invited. He exuded brilliance, charisma, humor, and tenderness. I sat in a corner, awestruck and somewhat overwhelmed, choosing to remain silent. Perhaps I snapped a few photographs, or perhaps I didn’t. Around 4 in the morning, I settled down to sleep on the floor in another room. A few hours later, I awoke, peered into his room, and spotted him asleep on the floor in front of his bed. Now, 27 years later, I attempt to recollect my feelings upon seeing him in that vulnerable state. I did capture a photograph at that moment, and I gently carried him to his bed. Then, I stepped out into the daylight to explore the neighborhood of Cabbagetown.” – Michael Ackerman.
About the Author
Michael Ackerman was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1967. At the age of 7 his family emigrated to New York City, where he grew up and began photographing at the age of 18. He has exhibited internationally and published 4 books, including End Time City, by Robert Delpire, which won the Prix Nadar, 1999. His work is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Brooklyn Museum, The Biliothèque National, France among others, as well as in many private collections.
“In Michael Ackerman’s work, documentary and autobiography conspire with fiction, and all of the above dissolve into hallucination. His photography explores time and timelessness, personal history and the history of places, immediate family and love, with all it’s complexities and contradictions. “ Jem Cohen.
He currently lives in Berlin and is represented by Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris, Spot Home Gallery, Naples, MC2 Gallery, Milan.