It’s perhaps no surprise to discover that American photographer David Armstrong originally intended to study painting. His subtly coloured photographs retain a softness and intimacy that can easily be described as painterly.
Armstrong first gained prominence in the 1980s with his intimate black and white portraits of young men. He was often referred to as part of a group of artists and photographers called the ‘Boston School’, who included acclaimed photographer Nan Goldin, who had been a friend of Armstrong’s since the age of 14. Together the group explored the world of social outsiders from the inside, capturing drug addicts, transvestites, fashion models and artists as subjects of their work.
In the 1990s, Armstrong moved away from the portraiture work and began to photograph cityscapes and landscapes in colour and very soft focus. Trees, roads and street lights were reduced to a mottled blur to create sensual and calming scenes. It was this body of work that was the basis for the series of Eyestorm editions published with Armstrong in 2000.
David Armstrong was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb, on May 24, 1954. He graduated from the Satya Community School, an alternative high school in Cambridge, Mass., where he met Nan Goldin. In the mid 1970s after attending the Museum School in Boston, he moved to New York, where he studied art at Cooper Union and he and Goldin shared an apartment.
In 1983, Armstrong returned to the Boston area to teach art and resume his studies. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Tufts University in 1988 and lived in Europe for several years before returning to New York in 1997.
The Whitney Museum in New York holds a number of Armstrong’s photographs in their permanent collection and his work was included in their 1995 Biennial. He has exhibited both in the US and internationally and his photographs have appeared in many fashion magazines such as Vogue, Arena Homme+, and GQ. Advertising campaigns have included those for Kenneth Cole, Burberry and Puma. Books include “The Silver Cord” (1997); “All Day Every Day” (2002); and “615 Jefferson Avenue” (2011); the title of the latter the address of his home and studio in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York.
Armstrong died in October 2014 at the age of 60 in Los Angeles after suffering from liver cancer.