San Francisco

Leon Borensztein

Fraenkel Gallery

Leon Borensztein, who was born in Swidnica, Poland, and came to California from Israel in 1978 at the age of 31, makes contemplative documentary photographs that take off from his journeyman’s work as a portraitist for a commercial agency. The job allows him to be, as he says, “an observer of a variety of people”—westerners who, singly or as couples or family groups, have sought out the agency’s services or responded to its promotional campaign. Having finished taking a custom color portrait, Borensztein will often ask his clients to stay on for additional black-and-white shots, adjusting their poses only so far as requiring them not to smile (which some do, regardless).

Here the props and stage machinery of the makeshift studio setup are confidentially laid bare: Borensztein uses the rather wan accoutrements of an impersonal photographic genre as devices for taking the measure of .a subject

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