Jersey City artist E. Jan Kounitz isn’t trying to impress anyone with his photographs, the artists says he works to please himself.
In Kounitz mind, that means capturing the strange, often over looked scenes that one would see if they happened to look up from what they are doing. Kounitz says that we often don’t take the time to notice what is around us – failing to see sometimes something as large or incongruous as a blown up rat on the street.
One of Kounitz’s photos is of the famous union rat that was part of his series “NY City Critters.” Other, overly large creatures from the same series includes the jaw of a dinosaur, a blue monster and a lizard that was perched outside the Lone Star restaurant in Manhattan until it was moved to a rooftop.
“I’m not a photographer that just looks at one thing,” said Kounitz. “I’ve been criticized for that but I don’t care.”
His latest work is in two shows. The first, which opened last weekend at the Brennan Court House gallery in Jersey City is called “AfricanAMERICANA” and features his photograph that he named “Henry” in honor of the subject. The picture, which is a B&W 20 x 24 image, is of a black man in a tanning bed dressed only in goggles and a towel. Kounitz took the picture as a test shot when he was trying out a new camera.
“Henry jumped into the picture,” he says. “It was basically his idea and we both thought it was very funny.” The show runs until the end of the month and is running in honor of black history month.
Another current show that he is involved with is at City Without Walls (CWOW) in Newark and is called “Metro 26.”
“You have to grab it when you see it.” – E. Jan Kounitz
Passion for art
In addition to capturing street scenes that spark an interest, Kounitz says that over the years he has done various series of images that interested him – such as people dressed in costumes.
“I used to go around to Halloween parties and take pictures,” he says. In order to get into the parties he would dress in costume himself and follow another costumed guest into the house so he could take pictures.
Another series he did included pictures of people dressed as Santa Claus and images from the Macy’s Day parade. A former Manhattan resident, he said he moved to Jersey City in 2000 and then witnessed what happened at First Street, but says that is typical for the art world. He says artists will create a community but eventually they get driven out when the rents go up.
“The younger artists are exploited for their work, for their own ambition,” he said, explaining that they will be told they can show their work in a restaurant but they won’t get paid. But nothing will change he says until artists are “working under the same umbrella.” Yet he doesn’t regret his choice to photograph images, even if there is no money.
“Artists are basically addicts,” he said. “It’s just as bad as heroin. It’s a part of you. It’s a passion.”
For more information about Kounitz’s work, visit: www.ejankounitz.com.