Calle De Luz.
Street of Light.
Photographs by Duane Monczewski. Essay by Elizabeth Kay. Edited by Krista Hanley.
Andrew Smith Gallery, Santa Fe, 2008.
Numerous color illustrations, 10¼x8¼".
Signed copies available!
Duane Monczewski has spent the last thirty years photographing cities and border towns in Mexico and the United States, including Juárez, Nogales, Taxco, Tijuana, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Tucson, and Santa Fe. His brilliantly colored photographs of vernacular street architecture capture the whimsical, sensual beauty of quiet neighborhoods, lively storefronts, and quiet side streets. Inhabitants are nowhere to be seen in these images, but their portals, shops, courtyards, and houses lit by sharp sunlight and intense shadows tell us much about their urban aesthetic.
Monczewski is a photographer of elemental facts: space, color, light, and shadow. Although grounded in the literalism and immediacy of down-to-earth subjects, his photographs are primarily juxtapositions of abstract shapes and geometric patterns infused with a wide spectrum of colors unique to the desert Southwest and Mexico. Within the solid geometry of cubes, squares, arcs, and rectangles, Monczewski reveals a heterogeneous world of colorful patterns and deteriorating surfaces that give each photograph a satisfying blend of elegant order and open-ended possibilities.
Monczewski’s tightly composed images are comprised of fragments of information isolated from larger experiences. Jumbled together are rickety gates, electric meters, barred windows, word-embellished storefronts, and advertising billboards. These carefully selected subjects have become slightly disassociated from their surroundings that would otherwise provide more understanding of an actual place. As visual fragments they must stand on their own merit as works of art, while at the same time referring to things that are simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. They come close to being pure acts of seeing.
“Color photography has an emotional tone,” says Monczewski, “but it is a little lighter, more fun, and decorative than black and white. I want people to feel that this lightness is okay when they look at my photographs. One thing I like about doing color work is that it feels more obvious when things click or mesh. There’s an easy moment of recognition.”
Duane Monczewski grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and studied photography at the University of Michigan. In 1981 he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to teach photography. He has been working in color since 1988, considering it an extension of his black and white work.