Kovi Konowiecki’s monochromatic photography is filled with “intuitive encounters”
Through emotive portraiture and landscapes, the Long Beach-based photographer strives to document communities and the individuals that make them.
- Ayla Angelos
- 17 July 2020
Documenting strangers through the lens of his camera, much of Kovi Konowiecki’s photography relies on spontaneous, chance encounters. This has, of course, in recent times been halted and affected by Covid-19. “Rather than making a ton of photographs, the past months have been very reflective for me,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I’ve decompressed a bit, and have taken a much deeper and more critical look at the work I have made over the past several years.”
We last heard from the photographer after he’d published his Cherry Ave series – a monochromatic document of Long Beach and the surrounding neighbourhood where he grew up. Still adhering to this minimalist colour palette and expressive use of narrative, Kovi, who is currently based between Long Beach and Mexico City, explains how his style hasn’t much changed – “but rather my focus and approach to my work”. He points out that his head space has now been more aligned with the editing process, focusing on sequencing rather than the creation of the imagery. “It has actually felt quite nice to take a step back,” he adds on the matter.
Having grown up in California, Kovi explains how he was a “very competitive soccer player” from a young age. Then, he set off to Germany during his teenage years before returning back to the US to play professional football in university. “But I sort of reached a point where I knew I was done with soccer at such a competitive level,” he continues to explain, “both mentally and physically.” Art and photography, in particular, has always been a key player in his life, but it was never something he devoted his time towards nor engaged with fully “beyond something I did as a way to distract myself from soccer.” Initially, it was travelling abroad that sparked his interest in photography. Then, lo and behold, he went onto pursue the medium further by studying a Master's degree.
An unpredictable path and one that Kovi could never have predicted, to this day, photography is a profession he thoroughly enjoys. “Things tend to work themselves out in mysterious ways,” he says. “I’ve been taking photos for quite some time now, and I’m not sure what I would do without it.” A result of this drive for the medium has consequently led to him release a vast portfolio of documentary works. He uses the phrase “lyrical or poetic” to describe them all, and we couldn’t agree more. With portraiture of people that he meets through “intuitive encounters” and a focus on communities and the individuals that make them, the people therefore become the main force behind much of the work he creates.
After Cherry Ave, Kovi went on to pursue other documentations of life around him in the form of And In Its Place, Another and The Hawks Come Up Before the Sun, Driftwood. The earlier works he refers to as being more formal than the more recent series, where Hawks colourfully (not monochromatically) explores the lives of people that “drift” through the Californian desert and their relationship with the environment that surrounds them. Driftwood, on the other hand, is a black and white contrast that perceives the desert as being more formal: “In the sense that I am setting out to photograph people and things that occupy a certain geography,” he adds.
Then there’s And In Its Place, Another, formerly known as Borderlands, that sees him pull together the pictures that he’d taken throughout his travels – the ones he felt were visually strong and emotional. “The photographs that make up the project could be nowhere or anywhere, creating a world that exists on the outskirts and fringes of what we associate as place,” he says. This includes pictures taken in the Middle East, Israel, Jordan, Mexico and Los Angeles over the course of 2012-2000.
“I have poured a lot into this project,” he adds, telling us of his excitement for turning it into a book in the very near future. An exploration of objects, people and places of “desolation that exist in a liminal place of society”, rest assured that this will be an aesthete’s haven for poetically collated imagery documenting our surroundings. With an ultimate goal to evoke emotion and human connection, Kovi is an intuitive photographer, and manages to photograph his subjects with beautiful consistency.
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.