Review by Wayne Swanson •
“Beauty is where you find it,” said the great philosopher Madonna, who lived for a while on her way to stardom in the neighborhood of Corona in the borough of Queens, New York. She is among many notable one-time residents, including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Martin Scorsese, and Archie Bunker. Corona is rich in history, but mainly as a place where people were from, not where they aspired to be. And beauty is not necessarily easy to find there, unless you know where to look.
Photographer Cara Galowitz knew where to look. Over the course of seven years while working as a graphic designer nearby, she spent her lunch hours walking the streets with her camera. The result is Corona, Queens, an engaging portrait of a community that is certainly not conventionally photogenic. But her images evoke a rich sense of place by capturing the beauty in the everyday.
Since the 19th century, Corona has been the starting point for a succession of immigrant groups making their way in a new land. Irish, Italian, African-American. Mexican, Asian, Dominican. More recently, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, and Colombian. Each wave has added a new layer to the metropolitan culture.
To capture the beauty of Corona, Galowitz was “attuned to the struggle of the people of Corona, their need, often in the face of poverty, to make things more beautiful: a string of lights, a tree trunk painted emerald green, or a well-placed Madonna to watch over things,” writes Adam Harrison Levy in the book’s essay.
Her images celebrate the simple ways people make a place their own. We see graffiti, hand-painted signs and drawings, lawn ornaments, and religious icons. We see doorways, gates, fences, and junk-strewn yards. We see glimpses of the residents, always captured at a discreet distance. We see window reflections that on closer inspection offer insights about their lives, their pets, and their possessions.
It’s all captured with a keen eye for detail and composition, as well as a quirky sense of humor. And it’s presented with an inspired eye for sequencing. The book’s simple design presents most images paired on facing pages, with each image playing off its partner. Brightly colored window dressings on one page echo similarly colored construction scraps on the next. Decorative metal grating and security fencing frame images on another spread. A Statue of Liberty keepsake lashed to a chain link fence speaks to a sidewalk Madonna shrine across the gutter.
They are all small, discrete moments. But presented together they provide a sense of the community and prove that indeed, beauty is where you find it.
Wayne Swanson is a Contributing Editor and a San Diego-based fine art photographer and writer.
Corona, Queens, Cara Galowitz
Photographer: Cara Galowitz, born and resides in New York, NY, USA
Publisher: DCV (Berlin, Germany, copyright 2019)
Essay: Adam Harrison Levy
Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, 76 images, 96 pages, 7 x 9 in., printed in Germany, ISBN 978-3-96912-083-5
Photobook designer: Cara Galowitz
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