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Photographs of Borenstein resemble paintings

Jan Šída

Sales exhibition of a certainly ambiguous title Musical Memory I can be seen in Prague's Nostress Gallery. Belgian photographer Marie Borenstein shows grand-format black-and-white pictures which central topic is trying to capture jazz and reggae musicians while giving a concert as truly as possible.

It is the choice of grand formats that seems to be the optimal way. The large sheets can most effectively carry gushing emotions, Alpha and Omega of musical expressions of every musician.

It is undoubtedly very difficult to transfer the spiritual atmosphere of music clubs and concert halls onto the numb and seemingly lifeless and emotionally dead paper sheets. Marie Borenstein recognizes the pitfall and picks out the old masters' way. She works with light, with contrast of black and white and their shades which she blends into an exotic amalgam. Due to her darkened chiaroscuro some pictures resemble works of Rembrandt, the source of inspiration of many famous photographers.

At other photographs the arist accentuates the central figure in the front plan, just like renaissance and baroque masters did when working on religious topics. The figure then stands in contrast with fuzzy and hazy background which supports the main topic even more. It actually is a simple and very effective technique, but here used purposefully.

Perhaps the strongest effect comes from a huge picture of famous reggae musician Burning Spears, taken at a concert. His wide-spread arms and fascinating grimace (mixture of pain and satisfaction) evoke Christ, nailed to an imaginary cross. It seems weird to mention suffering while talking about music yet it is the way to describe the works of Marie Borenstein. Her main asset is sometimes even brutally descriptive expressiveness of given moments.

A grimace of a guitar player, a hand of a bass guitar player which just touched the strings, or a gesture of a pianist pointing somewhere out of the picture. These are the means with which a lifeless photograph can obtain the disturbing and vibrating dimension just like a music fan standing in crowd under the stage, hungrily absorbing the music waves.