Monday, February 20, 2012

Leon Borensztein - American Portraits

A box arrived this morning from Nazraeli Press, in it a copy of Leon Borensztein's wonderful book American Portraits sent to me by Leon at the suggestion of Todd Hido.
Leon Borensztein's American Portraits brings together ten years of portraits by the photographer. Visiting his subjects to make commissioned home portraits against a plain backdrop, with that job done Borensztein would make his own picture, taking a step back to reveal a glimpse into the subject's personal space. The resulting collection of photographs is a playful and heartfelt look into the lives of the everyday "salt-of-the-earth" Americans he encountered.

These photographs are honest pictures of ordinary people made with affection and tenderness. Looking through the book I'm reminded of the importance of both context and chance. Context from the point of view of what's included or not in a picture to influence its reading. And chance, given that Borensztein had little of no control over who he was turning up to photograph nor any control over the location. These two factor make these pictures even more remarkable. So often it is the little things that we find in the frame that make an image sing. For example, the "Magritte eye" just visible on the wall above the photograph of the man with the tattooed swastika on his chest or the veterans of the Canadian Forces image with the man standing on a box to bring him level with the woman he's with. Simple things but loaded.

These are open, uninflected photographs and that increases the quiet sense of mystery and the pleasure to be had looking for the visual clues to aid the reading. The reader is left with unanswered questions, what more can you want from a superb book of photographs.

Father with Son, Bakersfield, California, Leon Borensztein

Leon Borensztein, American Portraits, Nazraeli Press, 2011. Signed book, limited edition of 2,000, 96 pages, clothbound, 13 x 11", 60 duotone reproductions.

You can order a copy directly from Nazraeli Press HERE

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