ON THE STREET WITH ESTHER BOESCHE
by Bernard Yenelois
Photographs of New York City are followed by the specters of that which was done before.
The post-WWII boom of street photography in NYC, so common and so extraordinary too, has moved from the street to the museum, shedding its visionary qualities to become a postcard of scenes of the past.
In its ossification I sometimes wonder why it can’t be different. Perhaps the issue is the pedagogy that has framed it: the street photograph becomes a formal composition rather than an engagement with the extraordinary flux that can be witnessed on the streets simply being there. That seems “male” to me although I don’t know how to defend it properly.
My one example would be the work of Diane Arbus, which is usually framed as looking at the social body that is freakish and strange, rather than ordinary. Are her photographs more grotesque than some of her peers at that time, such as William Klein or Leon Levinstein? That’s a larger discussion. My mention of Arbus is a stepping stone to more ideas about gender and the street: that a female vision is what could rescue street photography from the disagreeable old man it has become.
The work of Esther Boesche reminds me of this: what I find most suggestive about Boesche’s work is its resolute separation from easily recognizable categories. Her work is both pragmatic and project-based, and in a sense is meant to stand alone. While informed with historical and conceptual antecedents, there is an existential solitude in her work that keeps it to itself. Not as a token of uniqueness, or special skill: there is no modernist grandeur to Boesche’s agenda. The images are of humble, ordinary things and ephemeral moments. These ordinary things are also charged with dreams and connections at a pitch that shows us that this is a deep exploration, that the camera can be used as a mapping tool of the unconscious of the world, while it is also informed with the precarious state we live in now….