“Most of my initial photography projects have grown by asking myself questions about my heritage, culture and where I come from,” says Kovi Konowiecki, who’s currently based between his native California and Mexico City.
Brought up in a Jewish home in Long Beach, the 25-year- old former footballer has intimately captured his hometown and its surrounding areas, as well as travelling further afield, to document the wider Jewish diaspora. The nebulous concept of home – what it means and what it is like to voyage beyond it – is a recurring theme in his work.
From exploring contemporary notions of Orthodox Judaism in England, the US and Israel, to the racial and cultural discrimination faced by Ethiopian Jews in Israel, Konowiecki’s drive to better understand aspects of his own identity has brought him into contact with a broad range of distinct cultures and communities. Over the past three years, he began to trace similarities between the people he was photographing, who all tended to occupy a liminal space between belonging and isolation.
His latest project, Borderlands, is a bid to connect disparate individuals and communities through universal themes of human experience and emotion. Rather than documenting a specific geography and its people, the series is made up of photographs taken in California (Watts, Long Beach and the desert), Mexico and Israel.
Initially, Konowiecki thought of organising the project into chapters by region, but eventually decided on a more open- ended, “unscripted” approach that worked to reject categories instead of building them. Unlike his previous work, it’s the shared struggles of daily life that come to the fore in Borderlands.
An exercise in transcending both geographic and aesthetic borders, portraits are punctuated by landscapes and abstract reminders of the barriers that separate us. The rhythmic flow of Borderlands has its own internal logic, forging connections between the composition, framing and emotion of each image.
“Amidst this randomness, I knew I wanted a beat or chorus behind the sequencing of the photographs – the images of fences, mountains and walls act as constant reminders of the physical barriers and divisions between countries and communities that exist in the photographs,” Konowiecki explains.
“What is really important for me about the flow of the series is the act of placing individuals from different countries and communities around the world onto the same level of human existence,” he says. “In this sense, the photographs seek to break down the borders and barriers that the subjects within them endure.”
kovikonowiecki.com This article is taken from the July issue of BJP www.thebjpshop.com Kovi Konowiecki’s work is currently on show in the Labs New Artists exhibition at Red Hook Labs, Brooklyn www.1854.photography/2018/06/new-artists-red-hook-labs