Photographs from New York by Jirí Makovec
Czech-born Jiří Makovec arrived in New York City in 2002 and embraced his new environment with an intense curiosity, never leaving its confines until 2009. From the Island represents his body of work from a five year period (2004-2009).
Makovec is an outsider, but he is not the street photographer of old, looking in at his subjects. He is not entirely observing from a distance. Instead he is like someone who is contemplating joining, and is maybe just on the brink of stepping into, the group. But this new shared realm of subject and photographer is not always what it seems to be. In Makovec’s work one senses that he is uneasy with the ugliness and chaos before him, and yet he also sees an undercurrent of strange beauty, and is attracted by it. In his imagery he seems to be looking for the liminal spaces between many realities and for that which might elevate himself and those around him.
Investigating the mystery of the island and playing with its uncomfortable harmonies comes naturally to Makovec. What he sees on the street are many pieces of evidence that teach us something about the nature of the City and its inhabitants. Makovec’s imagery is often playful and surreal. He is a brilliant technician with the eye of a cinematographer, and his images often have the look and feel of being painstakingly lit and staged shots. But they are not staged. They are, in fact, authentic moments instinctively captured as he makes his daily explorations in the island.
Makovec applies a careful sensibility towards his subject. There is nothing exploitative in his work, nor does he have a calculated agenda. He wants the viewer to participate with him and make the connection: “See, this really isn’t so strange. We are all a little odd at times. Yes, those cars are on fire, and yes, for a moment there, I felt frightened too”. All seems a little chaotic on the island and there are a lot of people–even an elephant lying on the ground, seemingly trying to find some comfort and respite. But at the moment before we feel the possibility of despair, Makovec offers us the solution of imagination.
Matthew P. Carson
Librarian & Archivist
International Center of Photography