One-third of photography magazine Paper Journal’s Annual 2019 release, comprising of three photo books, is the series Cherry Ave, by California-based photographer Kovi Konowiecki. Shot in monochrome, the collection of photos depict life on the streets around Kovi’s neighbourhood of Long Beach.
“Cherry Ave combines portraiture and still life in a lyrical documentation of my hometown. The photographs portray a particular area of Long Beach and the surrounding neighbourhood where I grew up,” explains Kovi. "The project looks at various subcultures – from youth skaters to people that hang around the local liquor store.”
Focusing on a mix of subjects, from myriad backgrounds, Cherry Ave documents the inhabitants of Long Beach, young and old, black and white, with gentle intrigue. Despite the “gritty realness” that Kovi says initially drew him to the idea behind the series, there is also a sense of peace and tranquillity within the photos; the subjects smoke on the corner, sit on their skateboards (and their walkers) and pose with their shopping bags.
This stylistic approach comes naturally to Kovi, who says it forms a big part of his oeuvre. “People are the driving force behind my work. I started my creative practice by using portraiture as a way to document the things around me and to shed light onto different aspects of my identity (whether that be in my hometown or on the other side of the world),” he tells It’s Nice That. “Typically when I start a project, I have a particular group of people or region in mind, and I allow my instinct to sort of take over once I begin taking the photographs.”
This instinct means that Kovi’s finished product is not always what he had imagined – most of the time in a good way. “One of the things I really enjoy about making photographs is the sense of uncertainty with my process,” he says.
This process is often “felt-out”, figuring it out along the way; as is the case here: “My visual intention was to create a body of work that didn’t seem old, but also not particularly contemporary; to photograph a place where time stands still for me,” Kovi explains. This sense of limbo is true of his other projects too, which he summarises as being “primarily interested in communities and individuals that exist in a liminal state of belonging and abandonment; communities that are neither here nor there.”
After shooting the series, Kovi decided to submit it for Paper Journal’s call-out for its 2019 Annual. Chosen by the team from over 400 submissions, Kovi joined photographers Eleonora Agostini and Rodrigo Sombra as the winners.
Each putting forward a series that aesthetically and conceptually stood out from the competition, their submissions were made into three respective photo books that comprised the Annual.
Paper Journal’s founding editor, Patricia Karallis, tells us that Kovi’s style was the perfect aesthetic accompaniment to Eleonora and Rodrigo: “Eleonora’s explores interludes with smaller, landscape images intertwined with her sculptural, performative portraits and still life; Kovi’s takes on a more traditional approach with the focus being on a single portrait on each spread; whilst Rodrigo’s is a bit more experimental, with landscape and portrait images shifting between diptychs and full-bleed spreads.”
As a trio, the series complement each other perfectly, whilst also being beautiful stand-alone projects. Initially envisioned as a single publication, Patricia says the printed dummy “didn’t flow and seemed clunky”. Not happy with the result, she discussed the outcome with the artists and decided that each series would be published as an individual book, with the common thread that binds each together being the cover, colour, paper stock, image placement and font.
Paper Journal Annual 2019 will launch at Offprint, Saturday 18 May, including a book signing with all three artists.
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