Miron Zownir

Miron Zownir

Hailed by Terry Southern as the "Poet of Radical Photography" Miron Zownir's photographic work has been exhibited in galleries and museums all over the world from 1980 on. He took up photography in the mid 70’s during the hey-days of the punk-phenomenon in West-Berlin and London, 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, Miron Zownir emigrated to the USA, where he lived and work for the next fifteen years. 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 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; the hopelessness on the Bowery; the shadowy world of hookers or junkies, the sudden demise of a pre-gentrified age.

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.

In summer 1995 Zownir traveled to Russia. Focusing on the unspeakable misery of the homeless unable to cope with the breakdown of Communism and its ruthless transformation into Capitalism. According to Zownir, he experienced Moscow as “the most aggressive, cynical and dangerous city I’ve ever been to.” Yet even Russian militia couldn’t keep him away from depicting the blatant social and moral decline in the former Soviet Union. Zownir’s images from Russia are bitter and brutal, and highly distressing to view. The human tragic of radical poverty, that they reveal, ultimately climaxes in the utterly undignified act of dying in public. After three months of a terrifying descend into the lower depths of the Post-Soviet society Zownir returned to Berlin.

Some of his photographs were shown amongst artworks of the likes of Goya, Picasso, Alfred Kubin and Cindy Sherman in the exhibition ‘El salvaie europeo’ (2004) in Barcelona and Valencia.

In autumn 2008 Zownir’s photography was presented by the Fotomuseum Winterthur (CH) along with the works of photographers like Brassai, Man Ray, Ed van der Elsken, Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin,  and others in DARKSIDE I, an outstanding exhibition which showcased a remarkable collection of photography that is dedicated to images of sexuality as a mostly central part of our existence.

Following Darkside I, the Fotomuseum Winterthur again presented Zownir’s work in Darkside II (2009) exploring the photographed human body as victim of impairment, disease, degeneration, violence and death with works by W. Eugene Smith, Weegee, Cartier-Bresson, Larry Clark, Robert Capa and others.

From the early 2000’s on Zownir ventured for several photo excursions to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. From 2013 to 2014 he took several extended trips the Ukraine documenting a historical turning-point before and after the Revolution at Maidan. In 2016 he documented life on skidrow in L.A and the tenderloin district of San Francisco. In 2018 he stayed two months in Romania focusing on the living conditions of several Roma camps. In 2019 he documented the street life in Istanbul.

Zownir’s photos have been published in six books and several catalogues and anthologies. He was several times presented at the Paris Photo, Photo London, Art Budapest, Art Berlin and Art Cologne and twice nominated for the lead award, had many international solo exhibitions (House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg) etc. and has gained the reputation of being one of the most uncompromising contemporary photographers.

Zownir lives and works in Berlin. He is also a filmmaker and author of crime novels.

Solo Shows (selection):

(2020) Art Museum Cluj-Napoca Romania; (2019) Galerie Bene Taschen, Cologne, Pavlov’s Dog, Berlin; (2018) EUROPEAN MONTH OF PHOTOGRAPHY, Brotfabrik Galerie, Berlin; (2017) ART PHOTO BUDAPEST, Galerie Koppelmann, Budapest, Interzone Galleria, Roma, ART BERLIN, Galerie Bene Taschen, Berlin, Galerie Bene Taschen, Cologne; (2016) Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Hardhitta Gallery, Cologne; (2015) Kunstwerk Nippes, Cologne, International Elias Canetti Society, Ruse Bulgaria, Visual Culture Research Center, Kiev, Georgian National Museum of Fine Arts, Tiflis; (2013) K' - Zentrum Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen; (2012) Kunstwerk Nippes, Cologne, Visual Culture Research Center, Kiev; (2011) Fotogalleriet [format], Malmö, MOPIA, Zürich, Galerie Emmanuel Post, Leipzig; (2010) Slick Art Fair, Jas Gallery, Paris, Goethe Institut /Red House, Sofia; (2008) Mousonturm, Frankfurt a.M.; (2007) The Horse Hospital, London; (1999) Büro für Fotos, Köln; (1998) Künstlerhaus, Dortmund, TV- Gallery, Moskau, Kunstamt Mitte, Berlin; (1997) Studio Bildende Kunst, Berlin; (1994) Erotik Art Museum, Hamburg; (1988) Gotham Fine Arts, New York, März- Ausstellungen, Köln; (1983) Galerie Apex, Göttingen, CNA Gallery, San Francisco, Ambush Gallery, San Francisco; (1982) Neikrug Gallery, New York; (1980) Galerie Nagel, Berlin.

Group Shows (selection):

(2020) Museum für Fotografie Berlin, Reinbeckhallen Berlin, Bildband Berlin; (2019) Photo London, Galerie Bene Taschen, London; (2018) Photo London, Photography on a Postcard, London, Galerie Bene Taschen, Cologne; (2017) Paris Photo, Galerie Bene Taschen, Paris; (2016) Deichtorhallen, LEAD AWARD, Hamburg, Photo London, Hardhitta Gallery, London, Hardhitta Gallery,Cologne; (2015) Kunstwerk Nippes, Cologne, Paris Photo, Hardhitta Gallery, Paris, Deichtorhallen, LEAD AWARD, Hamburg, Photo Weekend Düsseldorf, Weltkunstzimmer; (2014) Paris Photo Los Angeles, Hardhitta Gallery, L.A., Hardhitta Gallery,Cologne; (2012) 10. Photoszene Köln, TIMP, Cologne; (2010) 10. Photoszene Köln, TIMP, Cologne; (2009) Fotomuseum Winterthur (CH), "DARKSIDE II"; (2008) Fotomuseum Winterthur (CH), "DARKSIDE I", Galerie West, Den Haag "Hommage to Peter Martens"; (2004) Centre de Cultura Contemporania, Barcelona “El Salvaje Europeo”, Fundacion Bancaja, Valencia “El Salvaje Europeo”; (2003) No Art, Berlin; (2002) Illuseum, Amsterdam; (2000) Akademie der Künste, Berlin; (1998) Galerie Zander, Köln; (1995) MUU Gallery, Helsinki; (1994) ART against AIDS, Art Cologne; (1993) NRW Kunstausstellung, Düsseldorf; (1992) Galerie Koppelmann, Köln; (1988) Museum für Fotografie, Braunschweig; (1986) Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin ( Kunstverein Heidelberg); (1982) Kunstverein, München.

Photobooks (selection):

Miron Zownir – Romania Raw (limited edition); Berlin Noir: Miron Zownir, (Pogo Books, Berlin); Miron Zownir: NYC RIP (Pogo Books, Berlin); Miron Zownir: Down & Out in Moscow (Pogo Books, Berlin); Miron Zownir Poet of Radical Photograph, (Catalogue) (Galerie Bene Taschen, Cologne); Ukrainian Night – Photos by Miron Zownir Text: Kateryna Mishchenko (Spector Books, Leipzig); The Valley of the Shadow -The Photography of Miron Zownir (Gestalten, Berlin); Radical Eye - The Photography of Miron Zownir (Gestalten, Berlin); Miron Zownir: 30 Jahre Radical Photography (Goethe Institut Sofia/Bulgarie); Mono Volume Two (Gomma Books, London); The Street is Watching (Drago Books, Roma); Eyemazing- The New Collectible Photography (Thames & Hudson, London); Darkside, Vol. 2: Photographic Power and Photographed Violence, Disease and Death (Steidl & Partners); Darkside, Vol. 1: Photographic Desire and Sexuality Photographed (Steidl).