"Zownir creates a mysterious sense of timelessness that takes the viewer to the realm of hyper-reality. It is impossible not to feel an intense emotional response when exposed to Zownir's work. He is one of those rare artists whose empathy burns through his images, championing misfits and dreamers who live out their lives a long way beneath the radar of "acceptable" society - just in between the blank spaces of the newspaper obituaries, and the dark shadows of the tenement housing blocks."
DAZED & CONFUSED
ISSUE 55 NOVEMBER 2007
Miron Zownir, once labeled by the American author Terry Southern as THE POET OF RADICAL PHOTOGRAPHY, took up photography in the late 70s during the hey-days of the punk-phenomenon, delivering a tight portrayal of the movement and its peculiar attitude towards life in limbo between a utopian vision of anarchy and nihilistic self-destruction.
In 1980, he emigrated to the USA, where he lived for the next fifteen years; first in New York, then in Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh. In New York, back then arguably the world's most fascinating and permissive metropolis, Zownir's peculiar approach to cover the city's multiple-layered day-to-day lunacy was quickly recognised by the local scene and earned him a reputation as the TEUTONIC PHENOMENOGRAPHER (Village Voice).
Shot in moody, expressionistic b/w, Zownir's pictures from that period give a penetrating insight to inner-city sub-cultural spheres, which, in their original local context, have since perished in the boom of the 90s. His lens captured the untamed lust at the gay-parties, just shortly before Aids massively claimed its victims; the futile protest of artists and offbeat performers against the increasing commercialisation of Manhattan; the hopelessness on the Bowery; the shadowy world of hookers, bums, junkies.
Zownir's photographs of the 'Sex Piers' have become legendary documents by now. The shut-down and dilapidated port area located between the Westside Highway and the Hudson River, with its sunbathing section for nudists and the surrounding 'halls of the anonymous lust', was a popular meeting place among the gay-scene.
During his long residence in America, Zownir worked not only as a photographer but also ventured into filmmaking, an ambition he had held since the mid-seventies. He wrote and directed several short underground films, which were mainly produced by Chosei Funahara, founder of the legendary band 'Plasmatics'. Another of Zownir's collaborators on these projects was Alexandre Rockwell, who would go on to direct the films IN THE SOUP and FOUR ROOMS, then working as director of photography. At the time, Zownir also developed a series of film exposés for the Japanese author and director Ruy Murakami (TOKYO DECADENCE), whose MARATHON MAN he directed, with Murakami producing the film. The 1993 SKINHEAD LANE/AUF OFFENER STRASSE, an anti-racism spot, was Zownir's first short film that was shot in Germany.
In summer 1995 Zownir travelled to Russia; depicting the blatant social and moral decline in the former Soviet Union. "It was Dante's inferno," Zownir would state when he returned to Berlin after three months of a terrifying descend into the lower depths of the post-Soviet society. His photographs from Russia had been published among 150 other works from 1979-1997 in RADICAL EYE-THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF MIRON ZOWNIR (DGV Die Gestalten Verlag, Berlin 1997).
In Berlin, Zownir's home since his return from Russia, he directed the documentary film BRUNO S. - ESTRANGEMENT IS DEATH, a feature-length portrayal of Bruno S., the backyard musician, painter and main protagonist of Werner Herzog's films THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER and STROSZEK. ESTRANGEMENT IS DEATH was shown at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival, and numerous other international film festivals.
The publication of the crime novel KEIN SCHLICHTER ABGANG (No Easy Way Out) in 2003 marked Miron Zownir's debut as an author of noir-style fiction. A bizarre, gloomy pulp story, the book was published as an original paperback by MirandA Verlag, now Mox&Maritz Verlag, known for their German editions of the works of Harry Crews, Lydia Lunch, Henry Rollins. Since then, Zownir completed two novels, a short novel, a collection of shorts , as well as the script for the neo-noir-thriller SCHNEEBALL (Snowball).
In 2006, Zownir directed VALUEV VS. VIOLENCE, a spot against violence, in which Nikolai Valuev, the Russian boxer and former heavyweight champion gives his opinion on the topic of aggression.
Also as a photographer the focus on extreme subjects and extraordinary forms of the human condition continued to be the central motivation of Zownir's work. Following-up RADICAL EYE there will be another photo book launched soon containing his latest works from France, Spain, England and Germany.
Miron Zownirs surreal drama feature debut PHANTOMANIE will be completed in autumn 2008. For the first time since decades Bruno S. again plays a leading role in in Zownirs movie which is shot in Berlin right now. In the midst of a cold, despising world he gets involved as a lonesome commuter between dream and reality.
Emmanuel Post, Leipzig