American Portraits 1979 – 1989: Artist Captures The Essence Of Life On Frontier USA

Fantaci World Pageant Prince Beauty Winner and Master Photogenic, Beaumont, Texas, 1981

Fantaci World Pageant Prince Beauty Winner and Master Photogenic, Beaumont, Texas, 1981

 

In Portraits 1979-1989 Leon Borensztein introduces us to slices of American life on its Californian frontier. He riffs on the dread family portrait, those awkward, over-staged records that make everyone but the sentimental instigator wince as they pass it, before the horror finds its was way from hall to dining room to attic. Borensztein took his pictures in the subjects’ homes. They should be at ease, relaxed in their own space, but stick a plain backdrop behind them and instruct them to stand still and not smile, and you achieve something more essential and authentic. Rid of cookie-cutter grins, grandiose pouts and oily gurns, we get to see the person and the photographer’s affection for them.

The subjects come across as approachable, every day and human-sized. You see worry, anxiety, love, warmth, humor – get a load of that outstanding picture above of the young beauty prince and try not to smile –  and, given the nature of portraiture, a desire to be seen.

 

Black Mother with Baby Girl, San Pablo, California,

Mother with Baby Girl, San Pablo, California

 

Twin Sisters in Aviator Hats, Oakland, California, 1988

Twin Sisters in Aviator Hats, Oakland, California, 1988

 

Parents with Five Children, Bakersfield, California, 1983

Parents with Five Children, Bakersfield, California, 1983

 

Black Boy with Picture of His Father, Fremont, California, 1979

Boy with Picture of His Father, Fremont, California, 1979

 

Girl with New Lunch Box, Stockton, California, 1985

Girl with New Lunch Box, Stockton, California, 1985

 

Brother's with Painted Jackets, St. James, Minnesota, 1988

Brother’s with Painted Jackets, St. James, Minnesota, 1988

 

Man in Arm Chair, San Francisco, California, 1979

Man in Arm Chair, San Francisco, California, 1979

 

Toddler with Guitar, Merced, California, 1980

Toddler with Guitar, Merced, California, 1980

 

Man with Afro, San Francisco, California, 1984

Man with Afro, San Francisco, California, 1984

 

American Indian, Pheonix, Arizona, 1986

American Indian, Pheonix, Arizona, 1986

 

Newlywed Couple, Madera, California, 1985

Newlywed Couple, Madera, California, 1985

 

Farmer Couple, Woodland, California, 1979-1989

Farmer Couple, Woodland, California

 

Black Couple and Baby, Bakersfield, California,

Couple and Baby, Bakersfield, California

 

Father with Son, Bakersfield, California, 1983

Father with Son, Bakersfield, California, 1983

 

Catch more of the artist’s wok at the excellent Foley Gallery. Buy American Portraits by Leon Borensztein here.