Review by Gerhard Clausing •
Connecting with the past is a challenge, particularly when the present is such a mess – viruses, warfare, economic worries, etc., etc. As I am writing this, a major new assault on yet another group of people is in progress: this time the victims are the Ukrainians. How many more times are we going to see a repeat of the human history of unprovoked, totally unnecessary acts of violence? I often wonder what all has happened over many centuries or even millennia in all the places we traverse. Anders Goldfarb is a creative sleuth who has investigated the past photographically by documenting disappearing evidence of past generations on his home turf, the two Brooklyn neighborhoods Greenpoint and Williamsburg, for twenty years. His meticulously crafted images can be seen as a metaphor for the elusiveness of everyday life and its cultural values that can so quickly be wiped out. Seems like uncertainty and change are the ever-present ingredients of human continuity (how long will it last?).
For many years Anders Goldfarb visited those two Brooklyn neighborhoods and recorded disappearing detail on the streets. He is an astute observer of his surroundings, as well as a wizard with traditional techniques of photography, and this combination results in an unrushed, contemplative approach and a top-notch level of technical finesse. It is said that he always saves one last negative in his Rollei in case something else comes his way; this is certainly a constructive way of approaching life in general: always open to new surprises, visually and otherwise. Dealing with a changing world through the eyes of an intelligent insider is a great experience for the viewer of this photobook as well.
Since what Goldfarb records gets down to the nitty-gritty, we don’t get to see famous statues, big monuments, and well-known places that others have documented when presenting various views of New York. We don’t even see very many people. But we do observe much that remains of past lives in what Goldfarb has observed in passing on his local trips.
Mysterious places from former times, lovingly recorded, present a universe of great beauty. We see walls that are a part of buildings formerly occupied. Or are there still some people living inside? What about that old business which promised a plethora of car parts: have the people in the neighborhood rejected the past by tolerating multiple layers of graffiti on that wall lately and is that supermarket still going on? Where are the folks that once made use of those abandoned crutches and that old chair? Whose laundry is still fluttering on that clothesline back there? Perhaps the lesson is that aging neighborhoods, even as they pay tribute to the past, make us anticipate what comes next, and that renewal is an inevitable part of the changes that time presents to us.
Passed Remains shows Anders Goldfarb’s strong bond with these parts of the city and was created and designed with much affection. The images are printed well; the layout is pleasantly varied and invites repeated viewing and comparing. The foreword by Bonnie Yochelson provides interesting additional insights on place and era, as well as on the artist. Even though the nostalgia that might arise from looking at these views may make the experience bittersweet, we as outsiders looking in on an insider’s interpretation of a region subject to regeneration become part of a positive and joyful experience.
Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Anders Goldfarb – Passed Remains
Photographer: Anders Goldfarb (born in Brooklyn, New York; lives in New York City)
Publisher: DCV, Berlin, Germany; © 2021
Essay: Bonnie Yochelson
Hardcover, debossed, printed and illustrated; 112 pages, paginated, with 66 images; 9.3 x 9.6 inches (23.6 x 24.3 cm); printed in Germany; ISBN 978-3-96912-040-8
Design: Cara Galowitz
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are © of the authors and publishers.