Brian Christopher Sargent: Anatomy of a Corner/Notes from the Underground
Today I am featuring two projects by New York photographer Brian Christopher Sargent, both reflecting the behaviors of big city living in an urban environment. The first project, Anatomy of a Corner, focuses on on movement, light, and composition allowing shafts of light and large scale advertising to create seemingly staged tableaus of intersecting lives. The second project, Notes from the Underground, reflect Brian’s daily commute, but more importantly, reflect small moments and gestures of killing time underground.
Born in Rochester NY, Brian earned a BFA in drawing and photography from SUNY Purchase. Upon graduating he pursued an internship at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography, volunteering in the library’s rare book department. After hours Brian played drums with the staff of the Visual Studies Workshop, trading rock steady beats for access to VSW’s darkrooms.
Both his photographic work and drawings have been selected for numerous national juried competitions. In 2012 he was selected to participate in the Portfolio Review at Cite Sante Fe and his work was recently purchased for the Martha Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy Collection at the Granary in Connecticut. He has worked in still and moving image archives for over a decade while pursuing a career in the arts.
Anatomy of a Corner
Over the past 10 years I been documenting real estate projects in and around Manhattan as part of a larger body of street work that I’ve produced since moving to the city in the mid-nineties. I was initially drawn to the novelty of observing how, once shrouded in plywood, readily identifiable locals would be transformed into anonymous corners, as if Christo and Avedon co-conspired to emphasize the cities populace. One thing I found loathsome was the encroachment of the supersize vinyl advertisements which announced the impending arrival of the corporate brand that was to displace what may or may not have been a cherished only-in-NY institution. I was only just recently made aware of my fellow New Yorker and photographer Natan Dvir, when he gained acclaim for his series “Coming Soon”, pictures of ostensibly the same subject matter. Even though we were photographing many of the same corners, each unaware of the other’s project, our approach to the environment is quite different. The images from Anatomy of a Corner are from a single intersection on 5th Avenue that I photographed over the course of 6 or 7 weeks during my lunch break. They are comprised of up to 4 or 5 vertical images which I’ve stitched together in Photoshop, which allows for the grander sense of scale and slightly wider field of view I feel landscape work requires.
Notes from the Underground
Notes from the Underground is a series that I’ve been compelled to make on my way to and from work each morning with my iphone on the B and Q lines (but most especially on the B – I cannot stand the new Q trains. Those automated announcements and bench seats are the absolute worst). Back when the D ran thru my neighborhood I recall with fondness a certain MTA employee as having the smoothest, silkiest voice in all of conductor-dom. Upon arriving in Manhattan and opening the car doors, the conductor would remind everyone to “Have a good morning” and in no small thanks to him I would. Getting off the train while being told to watch for suspicious packages does not a pleasant day make, and pre-recorded courtesy contagious.
One morning a few years ago I saw a young woman with light brown hair step into my car. A few stops later as we made our way over the bridge I saw tears streaming down this woman’s face. While she wept in stiff jawed silence a barrel chested black man to her right, in the most delicate and understated manner, produced a folded white handkerchief from his breast pocket and offered it to her without saying a word, somehow managing to show solidarity while maintaining a respectful distance from the emotional proximity of this total stranger’s grief. I hope these photographs share a little of that bearing, a small gesture to all that goes unspoken when we all ride together.
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