Miron Zownir | NO!art involvement ARTISTS
Biography search and find in the NO!art archives


the strategic
juncture where
artistic production
and socio-cultural
action meet.



Biographical Note

Born 3.12.1953 in Karlsruhe; graduated from high school; 1974-1977 Berlin; 1978 London (first photographic research); 1979-1980 Berlin; 1981-1988 New York; 1987 Los Angeles; 1990-1994 Pittsburgh; 1994 three-month stay in the Behring Sea (deep-sea fishing); since 1995 Berlin; three-month stay in Moscow and St. Petersburg (photographic research); work with photography, film and literature.

Stanley Kubrick's screenwriter Terry Southern described the work of filmmaker and photographer Miron Zownir, who emigrated to America in the early 1980s and lived for fifteen years in New York, L.A. and Pittsburgh, as that of a "poet of radical photography." But his images do not enchant, they hurt.

Zownir owed his risk-taking stations in life to relevant experiences in the American underground. They brought him into contact with the most unusual people.

As a bill collector, sailor, screenwriter or writer of phone sex texts, he survived without losing his unwillingness to compromise and pursued his own artistic visions with the incorruptible eye of a sniper.

Seven short films were made in the States, including a collaboration with Alexandre Rockwell as cinematographer, who has since become known as a director through his films In The Soup and Four Rooms. Miron Zownir also filmed The New York Marathon, produced by Japanese writer-director Murakami, to whom Zownir in turn provided several film ideas.

As a photographer, Miron Zownir additionally created a body of work about American subculture in the metropolises of notorious outsiders that remains undisputed in its uniqueness. He was repeatedly imprisoned, attacked and almost killed in the course of his work, in order to capture images that have yet to leave any viewer unimpressed.

Many of his photographs are now contemporary documents.

For example, the photographs of the "Sex Piers," the gay hangout between the West Side Highway and the Hudson River, shortly before the New York police closed the "Halls of Anonymous Pleasure" to all traffic in 1982.

In the mid-1990s, Zownir traveled to Russia, where he documented the rapid social and moral decay with images of the homeless, the sick starving, the criminal and the dying - the inhabitants of the darkest loopholes of our modern society.

Zownir is considered one of the great existentialist photographers of our time. "His pictures are icons of lust, suffering, hunger, madness, of dying and of death," wrote the Berlin city magazine TIP about his black-and-white photos, 152 of which have been published in Radical Eye - The Photography of Miron Zownir (Die Gestalten Verlag Berlin).

With his award-winning anti-racism short film On the Open Road, which was shown in numerous German cinemas as a supporting program, the German-Ukrainian Miron Zownir reported back to his homeland. He now lives back in Berlin, where he has just finished shooting a film portrait about Bruno S., Berlin's last backyard musician and former leading actor in Werner Herzog's films "Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle" and "Stroszek". Bruno S. - Die Fremde ist der Tod was shown as a Panorama Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival 2003 and will also be screened at the Toronto Film Festival (HOT DOCS) this April.

In his debut novel, No Simple Departure, Miron Zownir, as before in his photography and films, now also as a crime writer, takes us into a vicious and hostile world that he exposes with his uncensored, detached gaze as an absurd sum of everyday madness: "Basically, I was no better off than I was years ago, when I arrived at Kennedy Airport burned out and with two suitcases, still subsisting on slimming drops. Now I was burned off, ten years OLD, and owned only one suitcase. And had a lot of trouble on my hands...". (No Plain Departure, 2002)