Image © Jiri Makovec.
Jiří Makovec has been selected as one of BJP's 20 photographers to watch in 2013
Author: British Journal of Photography
14 Jan 2013 Tags: Ones to watch
From an Island is the quite literal title for Czech-born Jiří Makovec’s five-year project shot around New York, during which time he never left the city, cycling around Manhattan, doing odd jobs to support himself.
“It was unexpected,” says the 35-year-old photographer of his self-imposed exile. “New York contains different types of people from all over the world, and from this island I could peer off to a different land.”
He began shooting a couple of years after 9 /11, sensing the shift in mentality and curious to capture how people coped with the tension. “I went everywhere with my bicycle, and through these rides I got deeper and deeper into the place. I was really taken by the city and didn’t plan to leave until something came out of it. I ended up spending lots of time on the streets, observing and trying to survive. My camera was on my shoulder at all times. I obviously had a desire to see.”
He first went to New York in 1998, recalling: “I liked the way that everything was there. Coming from post-Communist Prague, that means something. There were endless things to explore. I saw parades celebrating different nationalities and would always get one or two odd pictures out of these trips – not in the obvious scenes, but apart from them. The really interesting things are always off-centre. I was mainly responding to what I saw. It was immediate, animalistic, intuitive. I always work like that. I absorb the energy and act accordingly. There are depressing places, cheerful places, lazy places…”
Image © Jiri Makovec.
Stylistically, From an Island looks quite different from his previous series, shot in St Petersburg. “I was looking for similar situations, but there is a different spatial feel and it was also a different time,” he explains. “In the end, maybe it is the nuances of a place that make the difference to the work, not my photographic eye. Also, it is a matter of time – the difference between living someplace for five years and making it your island versus travelling through a place.”
Now Makovec is hoping to find a publisher for the work, which goes on show this summer at Oslo 8 gallery in Basel, some 80 miles from St Gallen in Switzerland, where he is based between shooting ongoing projects in China and his homeland. And he was recently invited to join In-Public, a showcase for street photography whose members include Narelle Autio, Trent Parke, Nick Turpin and Matt Stuart, who recommended Makovec to BJP.
He recently met up with Stuart and another member, Gus Powell. “They were really sweet and we went out all night,” says the Czech photographer. “Through them I also met Joel Meyerowitz the next day – actually right before I went to visit my new friend Robert Frank. That was a full 24 hours with photographers – so much fun!”
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