Chernogirls Act II: NYC

PhotographerMarc Erwin Babej
PrizePortraiture / Culture
Entry Description

Chernogirls Act II: NYC finds our heroines a world away from their motherland, in New York City and Miami. Set in the winter of 2013-14, the Chernogirls are now strangers in a strange land, in search of adventure and opportunity. Some look to settle in America; others are just here for “the season” – already scheduled to travel on to Paris, Milan or Hong Kong. For all of them, “home” has become a relative term: they are from the former USSR and in culture capitals, but no longer of any place in particular. In an earlier age, Soviet media would have categorized them as rootless cosmopolitans. They are educated, polyglots; refined and world-wise beyond their years. But their ticket out was paid in an altogether different currency: a Faustian bargain with their unearned, perishable yet highly-prized appearance in the balance. To a global fashion cult that apotheosizes images of statuesque yet elfin young women with wide-set eyes, our Chernogirls epitomize a sublime and unapproachable beauty. Becoming idols has not ben without consequence: the Chernogirls have become detached from – and, in the process, perhaps transcended – their physical form. Like a Greek chorus, they are onstage not as characters, but as commentators on a plot that takes place around them, but doesn’t involve them.

About Photographer

Marc Erwin Babej is a fine art and documentary photographer who works exclusively in black-and-white. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1970, he received a B.A. in history from Brown University and an M.Sc. from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Marc’s background in social sciences, marketing strategy, media and entertainment pervades his photographic work. Uneasy coexistences are a predominant theme: his images surface inner conflicts and, in so doing, expose seemingly contradictory beliefs. Conflict is a key means of representation – a stance that embraces the viewer with one arm, while holding him at a distance with the other. Marc’s image-making method calls for intensive collaboration with cast members. Members of his still-image film ensemble Mercury Theatre, feature in a variety of roles across the work. Marc’s work is published regularly – both in general media and in international art publications. He also writes a column about luminaries in art and documentary photography for Der Spiegel and American Photo.