Andrew Borowiec, Photographer
2006 MID-CAREER AWARD FOR VISUAL ARTS
There is a quiet majesty in the black-and-white images of Andrew Borowiec, a photographer who has captured the social landscape of factory towns in series of images along the Ohio River, the Gulf Coast and Cleveland’s industrial landscape. In images devoid of people, Borowiec suggests the human spirit that thrives in less-than-ideal environments.
Born in New York in 1956, Borowiec spent his early years in Europe and North Africa, diverse places that honed his eye for the changing physical and social landscape. He received his BA from Haverford College in 1979 and his MFA in photography from Yale University in 1982. He has been a professor at the University of Akron since 1984, serving as director of the Mary Schiller Myers School of Art from 1990 to 1995.
Borowiec places himself squarely in a tradition of American photography that “seeks to reveal cultural patterns and truths through the precise description of real places.” Those places—such as Moscow, Ohio, and Wheeling, West Virginia, where rust prevails and industry is dead or dying—comprise the landscapes in the book Along the Ohio (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
From 1999 to 2003, he made a series of images of some of the most polluted landscapes in the country: the Gulf Coast in East Texas and Louisiana. In those images he conveys “the dizzying, yet meticulously ordered spaces, the underlying sense of danger, and the strange beauty of those carefully crafted, man-made environments” of chemical plants, oil refineries, power plants and ports. Borowiec’s Gulf Coast photographs were published in Industrial Perspective: Photographs of the Gulf Coast (Center for American Places).
More familiar are his photographs of Cleveland’s industrial landscape, created in 2002 for the George Gund Foundation’s annual report: ice formations on Stones Levee with the Terminal Tower in the background, or the curving pipes of ISG’s east side steel operation. In all of these works, Borowiec suggests the uneasy relationship we humans have with often monstrous constructions that serve our overwhelming need for consumption.
Borowiec’s formal and humane images, in combination with our contemporary compulsion to push past the past, make his work especially appealing. They have been exhibited widely and are in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, among others.