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04 July 2019

The Uncertain Spaces of the Borderlands

04 July 2019 - Written by Lucia De Stefani

In a four-year-long project, American photographer Kovi Konowiecki explores the geographical and emotional margins of society and the mind.

© Kovi Konowiecki, from the series Borderlands

In a black-and-white photo, a shredded rubber tire twists like a snake on a strip of sand, hinting at the impossible, as movement cannot be resumed. If humans were so small and the tire so huge, in this unlikely proportion, the rubber tire would be like a wall, to include or separate. In another photo, the tire is full, the only circle interrupting a wall of slabs: their edges sharp and irregular, no smooth enough to roll, prevent any movement.

Then there’s a boy, leaning against a pile of stacked tires. They are still, but their shape recalls their function, introducing to Konowiecki’s poetic Borderlands themes: flow, movement, transit, place, emotion, migration.

© Kovi Konowiecki, from the series Borderlands

Despite the title, Borderlands isn’t political, rather, it draws from Konowiecki’s personal experience: traveling the world while seeking a professional career in football before turning to art and photography. He has traveled since adolescence, moving back and forth between California, Europe, the Middle East - where the very first photograph of this project was taken - and now Mexico.

In part, Borderlands has been a happy accident, inspired by the frequent travels that nourished Konowiecki’s sharp eye for “the liminal types of communities” to which he’s drawn: people he has met in his wandering and his work, residents of housing projects in greater Los Angeles, passersby in the street, on a motorbike or a horse, an orthodox couple resting indoors. “Borderlands can be an emotion, a psychological place. It can be a nowhere place. That's kind of what I intended... But other people might have different ideas,” Konowiecki says.

© Kovi Konowiecki, from the series Borderlands

Hardly belonging to any social class or place, his subjects live in a borderland of their own, as Konowiecki’s exploration lets us see: a borderland that transforms into a place or no-place, desolate landscapes, portraits framing a moment in a single life, creating a sense of both fracture and reunion. “With no real intention to connect [the photographs], Borderlands sort of grew out of this idea of having these different works which, although they're not really connected geographically, there are strong emotional connections.”

Beyond the emotional bond, though, is a strong sense of composition, as sequence and patterns become part of the story: black and white alternate colour, digital and analogical in various formats, portraits and landscapes, absence and presence, all magnified by the metaphors and allusions Konowiecki plays with. Multiple threads intertwine in a glance. Drawn to the out-of-the-ordinary, Konowiecki allows our imaginations to roam free, offering glimpses of beauty from an outer world, unknown yet familiar - the borderland of our mind.

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Kovi Konowiecki is a photographer based between Long Beach, California and Mexico City. Follow him on PHmuseum and Instagram.

Lucia De Stefani is a multimedia reporter focusing on photography, illustration, culture, and everything teens. She lives between New York and Italy. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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This article is part of the series New Generation, a monthly column written by Lucia De Stefani, focusing on the most interesting emerging talents in our community.

Written by

Lucia De Stefani


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