‘Altered Passages’ demonstrates Bart Synowiec’s distinctive approach to photography and representation. From the traditional qualities of his observations and subjective expressions to his explorations of the physicality of the photographs, the images of Altered Passages are realised through a very deliberate and literal construction of image and narrative, presenting a new direction in the photographer’s method.
In 2013, Synowiec traveled to Brazil to document the favelas. His approach consisted of the token objectivity and preternatural sense for composition and restraint for which he’s known.
Returning from Brazil with strikingly beautiful pictures, Synowiec became aware of his power to distort through selection. His pictures altered the context; they would alter impressions in the viewer’s mind’s eye as well. He considered abandoning the project, concerned he may ‘trick’ viewers into extracting a false sense of peace and harmony and that these false feelings may come to be incorrectly associated with each location. The photographs didn’t convey the experience truthfully; they didn’t capture the atmosphere, the passers by – the locations’ lifeblood at the start and end of each day. It’s not that the images lied; it’s that they didn’t give a complete picture.
Synowiec says: ‘I had predetermined the viewer’s misconception of these real living, breathing places. I’d chosen how [the viewer] would come to misconceive [these real places] as the experience of the work itself.’ And the power of an image increases dramatically when it’s the entirety of a viewer’s experience.
Synowiec found new opportunities in the printing process, overturning the conventions of photography with extreme perspectives and distortion. He painstakingly created new narratives, guiding the viewer around an image in different ways by layering square cutouts of the image on top – a deliberate reference to the power of selection. “The images are quite literally of passages, that lead you in only one direction, but the direction is quite unclear and misleading,” Synowiec says.
There is an emphasis on the process, on the reconstruction of each scene and on a physical connection to place and to subjects beyond. The work conveys the alienation of artist from subject, of the viewer from the bigger picture. The result is a viewing experience that is fragmentary, abstract. The photographer’s struggle as professional artist and prime mover is apparent. The series ambitiously asks viewers to consider the complexities in objectivity and balance, in this body of work and beyond.
Copyright © Antoinette Di Michele, 2014.
Images Courtesy of Feliks Gagula, 2014.