New York

Daniel Babior

Bertha Urdang Gallery

Daniel Babior’s color photographs at first appear to be superimpositions, tricks performed in the darkroom to blend urban interiors and urban exteriors. Still, there was something eerily familiar about them; I realized there were no tricks involved. The photographs are of windows on urban streets and of what these windows simultaneously reflect and reveal: the daily fare of any ambulatory city dweller. Glass is a true city medium, cold and hard; but these pictures avoid being either. They have no part of photography’s urban etiquette of chilling or awesome surfaces, of grotesque juxtapositions, of the dark or dangerous edges of things. And while they are of the familiar, they manage to be revelatory.

One is of a New York City flower shop. The shop is well lighted, so the interior dominates. A shrewd, hawk-faced salesman stands awash in lush waves of red carnations and white and yellow daisies. Above him and his wares, above the overhead lights, the ceiling of the shop gives way to the reflection in the glass of the tops of skyscrapers across the street. Beauty and its attendant rapacity; nature and the city. But the composition does not seem set up. The observation is made warmly, lightly.

The centrality of the human figure is typical of Babior’s work. The most abstract photograph, a sunny day picture of an open glass door to a shop in Providence, Rhode Island, is a melange of fragmented horizontals and verticals: reflected interior stairs, ends of walls, further doors, reflected buildings across the street, all in browns and golds. But even here, at the back center of the welter, sits a fragmented, careworn pawnbroker of a man. On which plane he exists hardly matters. He does not dominate the composition, yet he presides over it, humanizing all the geometry.

Babior well realizes what he calls an “interest in interior-exterior synthesis.” He understands light values and uses his understanding not for drama but revelation: garish, luminous pictures of pancakes and a burger platter over the counter of an otherwise dim coffeeshop fit into stone archways reflected from across the street (the exposure value of the lit signs inside being equal to the outdoor light). These food images strike us as both quintessentially urban and quintessentially human. All the work displays this sense of fun and humanity. In the one “uninhabited” photograph, of a sunny, deserted recreation room, the grinning ghost of the photographer himself shows in the plate glass window.

Tor Seidler