The New York Photo Review Inc.
Don Burmeister: Executive Editor
Barbara Confino: Managing Editor
Cindy Trinh: Social Media and Marketing
The words from Lennon & McCartney’s “In My Life” came to mind when thinking about Andrew Borowiec’s images of Provence at the Sasha Wolf Gallery. An educator and photographer, Borowiec has spent much of the past twenty-five years documenting the changing industrial and post-industrial landscape of America. Yet much of his childhood was spent in Provence. While visiting the family home there from 2009 to 2011, he photographed the neighboring hill towns at night, seeking to recapture (the gallery notes suggest) the lost landscapes of his childhood. That may be so. But I also suspect he had a need to “recharge the batteries” by going back to a simpler, pre-industrial visual environment.
In these sixteen photographs Borowiec focuses on nocturnal views of these villages, exposed by the ambient light of street lamps and night sky (and in sharp contrast to the daylight exposures of much of his other work). Despite the limited amount of light, there is a full range of grays in these silver gelatin prints, with detail in the shadows and palpable texture in the old walls. Photographed on film with a 6x9 medium format camera, the 16 x 20 prints are sharp, the depth of focus deep.
The architecture of these towns calls to mind Atget’s views of Paris. Like that work, there is a formal simplicity to these photos: buildings are presented straight on, verticals are vertical, not keystoned, and streets curve in a natural pattern, reflecting the contours of the land on which they were built long ago (e.g., Rue du Terronier, Callian, 2009). As with much of his other work, no people appear, even though evidence of human activity exists in many (outdoor cafe tables & chairs in Au Rendezvous, Callian, 2009).
Leading us into and through these images by the highlights of the streetlamps and the pools of reflected light, his camera carefully set at the perfect distance and at a height neither too high nor too low, Borowiec makes one feel as if one is “just happening upon” each scene during a late-night ramble. (Rue Pasteur, Bargemon, 2011).
Just as Atget created a “catalogue of views,” these images offer a typology of street views: directly down the street; from a side street into another road; or looking at a proverbial fork in the road. It is this last set that I found the most intriguing, with their teasers of a choice to be made – right or left, up or down. It can be as overt as in the traffic signs in Rue Droite, or as subtle as in Rue Soute les Estres. One path ascends into the light on the left; another drops down toward a dark sky on the right. Whichever I chose, I knew it would lead me safely to more visual delights.