Mark Borthwick

This Renaissance man talks about his culinary skills, rock band and art-which he'll gladly give away for free.

Photographs: David Rosenzweig

Mark Borthwick spent his teenage afternoons doing makeup, picking psychedelic mushrooms in the forest and cooking them into treats for friends. “We’d wake up every day and make each other up,” says Borthwick, now 42 , an iconic photographer and artist. “Makeup was about creating identities and indulging in the individuality in each of us.” Those bucolic, communal days have stuck with Borthwick, from England to France to his current home in NYC.

Borthwick moved to Paris in 1984, bought a small club and started taking pictures of the stylish patrons. Around this time he became close with soon-to-be influential editors of magazines like i-D and The Face. These relationships ensured that his exuberant, sun-drenched style (incorporating nature, architecture and design with fashion) was on its way to mainstream recognition. Eleven years later, the artist moved to New York City with his daughter and wife, designer Maria Cornejo, and began a series of multidisciplinary collaborations both in and outside the fashion industry.

After settling into family life, his work was published extensively in i-D, The Face, Italian Vogue and Purple, while he staged large, all-inclusive public exhibitions. Borthwick takes pride in the fact that he has never had gallery representation, instead preferring to work on his own terms with artists like Mike Mills, Aaron Rose, Sinéad O’ Connor and Sonic Youth. He favors museums over galleries: “Museums are so much more interesting, because there’s no money involved. It allows me to work completely out of context. If you don’t have a gallery, then you aren’t responsible for the business aspect of things. I just give my work away for free. Why not?”

In continuance of his generous spirit, Borthwick loves sharing his art in his live/work space in Boerum Hill. The multistory property is a legitimate creative utopia with guitars, photographs, slides, records and even friends’ phone numbers lining the walls and cluttering the floors. Just as a Borthwick photo is often identifiable by pulsating light leaking across the frame, his work environment is similarly overexposed; floor to ceiling windows let the sun pour into the apartment and further illuminate the art on the walls. Often, friends will stop by to jam or sample the artist’s well-known culinary experiments, which he considers an integral part of his oeuvre.

In 2001, Borthwick added music to his résumé and began a series of collaborations, which evolved into a group called USUN. Featuring local experimental rock musicians such as Hisham Bharoocha, the band reflects a true collective mind-set, feeding off improvisation and communal art gatherings to create serene acoustic folk music, Borthwick says. “There’s no difference in music, art, photography or even cooking for friends,” says Borthwick. “New York has been, and still is, a place where people can enter a free collaborative environment and communicate without words or genre requirements getting in the way.”

To round out his repertoire, a retrospective book about his career will be released in February 2009. Winkingly titled Not in Fashion, the book presents more than 200 vibrant images from Borthwick’s art, fashion editorials and portrait projects, along with a healthy selection of personal journal entries. “I have this new book because I realized that I needed to share content in a new way,” he says.

Borthwick's Home COBBLE HILL, BROOKLYN


Photographs: David Rosenzweig

• That ’70s show: A stark Danish-modern chair, sheepskin throw and daises create the perfect natural tableau in the sun-drenched green house (right).
• Earthenware tea pots, wooden chopsticks and a stone mortar and pestle (above) are just some of Borthwick’s instruments in the kitchen.

Borthwick's WORKSPACE


Photographs: David Rosenzweig

• Perfect storm: Borthwick’s studio is awash in slides of his work (left).
• The detritus is artfully arranged (above): mementos, dried flowers and notes are taped to the wall.

Borthwick's WORK


Photographs: David Rosenzweig

• Rainbow-like sun-streaks are common in Borthwick’s photos.
• These naive, endless summer motifs seem to evoke his youth spent frolicking in the forest with friends.

Borthwicks’s career timeline

1966: Born in London
1984: Moves to Paris; starts a nightclub and works professionally in the fashion industry doing makeup
1986-1990's: Works as a prominent alterna-fashion photographer for various cult fashion and lifestyle magazines
1994: First daughter, Bibi, is born
1995: Moves to New York City
1996-00's: Stages major photo exhibitions throughout New York and the world
1998: First son, Joey, is born
1998: Releases Synthetic Voices, which receives the Art Directors Club (New York) Silver Prize for Book Design
2001: Starts playing music with USUN
2004: Releases Speaking for Trees, a DVD collaboration with Cat Power
2009: Releases Not in Fashion, a major career-retrospective book

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