Photo District News, December 16, 2011




The Ohio River has never inspired a school of transcendental painters as the Hudson did, but does humdrum duty as the border between several Midwestern states: It is a landscape without romance. In these 28 medium-format black-and-white photographs, Andrew Borowiec concentrates on the built environment along the river, the small towns and industrial plants. Even “Scioto County, Ohio” (1996), the picture most devoted to the river and the riparian growth of trees and shrubs, has a bridge visible to the right, and an abandoned supermarket shopping cart conspicuous in the foreground. But Mr. Borowiec is no hectoring Robert Adams, bewailing a fouled Nature. He seems, instead, intent on wresting something gracious from these unprepossessing river towns.

“Wheeling Island, West Virginia” (1987), is a good example of his compositions. Mr. Borowiec positioned his camera to peer down a road that zigzags into the distance; the homes on either side are modest but well maintained; the cars are American made, not foreign; telephone wires drape across the frame; a single boy on a bicycle silhouetted against the sidewalk is emblematic of small-town dailiness. In “Monongahela Valley, Pennsylvania” (1988), the vista to the low mountain in the distance is blocked by the smokestacks and silos of an industrial plant, but the plant and the wood-frame houses in the foreground are trim and neatly arrayed; here a man in shorts pushing a lawnmower serves the same function as the boy on his bicycle.

Review by William Meyers, December 3, 2011