An assistant professor at Fordham University in New York City, Leo Rubinfien travels extensively to make his photographs and says he works by taking long walks. “Many of my pictures try to describe something about the experience of traveling.” The majority of the photographs featured in the current exhibition were made during Rubinfien’s most recent trip to Southeast Asia, part of a Guggenheim grant for 1983. Rubinfien’s fascination with familial life in exotic places originated in the early 1960’s when he first lived in Japan as a child. He has made many subsequent trips, returning to the East to photograph its inhabitants as well as his fellow travelers. He is currently working on a book on contemporary life in Japan and Southeast Asia, and has plans to live in the East for at least a year before finishing the project.
After a long apprenticeship in black and white photography, Rubinfien began photographing in color in 1978. By working with a 6×7 Siciliano camera he is afforded the flexibility of a handheld camera with the clarity and resolution of the larger negative it provides. While his subjects may be the citizens and tourists of such places as Bangkok, Burma and Malaysia, Rubinfien’s images are not only records of strange or spectacular sights. They take their leverage instead, from the very activity of travel; that exceptional state of almost complete suspension between points in space and time.