A native of Brooklyn, Kushner knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was in high school. After he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he began shooting a number of editorial assignments and was syndicated by Retna. When he was profiled for the first issue of PDN’s 30: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 1999, photo editor Michelle Molloy, then at Newsweek, praised the vibrancy and energy of Kushner’s portraits, and noted, “He also hits it off well with people, which is important for a portrait photographer, yet he never loses perspective of the person he’s shooting.” Kushner said, “I want to say either by location or action or clothes or composition what my subjects are about, aside from simply what they look like.”
Kushner turned his passions for two of his favorite subjects – Brooklyn and comic books—into photo books. In 2007, he published The Brooklynites (powerHouse Books), which combined his environmental portraits of Brooklyn residents, both famous and unknown, with interviews by Anthony LaSala (former senior editor at PDN). Years before “Brooklyn” became synonymous with “hipster Mecca,” The Brooklynites celebrated residents from every part of the borough and every walk of life: writers and actors, a sanitation worker, a handball player, a pizza maker, clergy, teachers, British émigrés raising toddlers in Park Slope.
A collector of super-hero memorabilia, Kushner co-founded the website Graphic NYC in 2008 with writer Christopher Irving to celebrate pioneering comic book artists. Kushner expanded the website into a book, Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comic Books, published by powerHouse Books in 2012. It featured Kushner’s portraits of such artists as Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics; Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America; Frank Miller, creator of Sin City; and Art Spiegelman, author of the graphic memoir Maus.
Kushner was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. Members of the communities Kushner was most involved with – the photo community, comic book artists and fans, and his neighborhood in Brooklyn—contributed to an online fundraising campaign set up to raise money for medical bills and living expenses while Kushner was unable to work. Memorial contributions to the campaign will now help support his wife, Terra, and their son, Jackson, who survive him.
PDN Photo of the Day: Real-Life Comic Book Heroes
George Pitts, photo director of Vibe from 1993 to 2004, died March 4 after a long illness, according to the Society of Magazine Photographers. A former painter who took up writing and photography, Pitts had exhibited his fine-art photography in New York, Los Angeles and Montreal. During his tenure at Vibe, he worked with photographers... More ›
Dutch photojournalist Jeroen Oerlemans, 45, was killed in Sirte, Libya, on October 2 while on assignment for the Belgian magazine Knack and other publications, Al Jazeera reports. His body was taken to Misrata, where a doctor reported that Oerlemans had been shot in the chest by a sniper for ISIS, which has been fighting for... More ›
Wilbur “Bill” Garrett, who methodically raised the standards for photography at National Geographic and pushed for coverage of timely and sometimes controversial subjects during his tenure as editor in the 1980s, died at his home on August 13, National Geographic has reported. He was 85. Garrett began pushing for a more photojournalistic approach to Geographic... More ›