Meeting Phil Borges’ Fine Art Black and White Photography

Black and white fine art photography is one of my favorite art forms and Phil Borges is no doubt one of the greats.  When he came to town, I first met him at the gallery in La Jolla cove.  Phil is a very easy going man.  His personality puts up no fronts and so you feel you know him instantly.  As we walked down Prospect Street on our way for dinner at one of my favorite La Jolla restaurants (Roppongi), we spoke as we had known each other for years.  We spoke about his books, Tibetan Portrait, Enduring Spirit and Women Empowered and the powerful images in each of them.  Phil Borges works are about much more than just the images though, as is the case with most photography.  Behind each photographic image is an amazing story.

Roket by Phil Borges.  Roket was guarding the only well in the area to make sure no one took more than their share of water. He had just completed his circumcision ceremony and been initiated as a moran (warrior). The beadwork was handed down to him from an older moran who was getting married. I was told that if the initiate makes any sound or even slightly moves during the circumcision, he will be considered an outcast. In the past, he would be killed on the spot. Samburu Tribe

Roket by Phil Borges. Roket was guarding the only well in the area to make sure no one took more than their share of water. He had just completed his circumcision ceremony and been initiated as a moran (warrior). The beadwork was handed down to him from an older moran who was getting married. I was told that if the initiate makes any sound or even slightly moves during the circumcision, he will be considered an outcast. In the past, he would be killed on the spot. Samburu Tribe

For anyone who has ever seen Phil’s art works, you know that each and every shot he does captures an amazing essence and energy from its subject.  I am not just saying this either.  In the gallery, there are more man ours spend gazing at the works on his wall than any other wall in the gallery.  Some people will stand there and marvel at the works for hours (and we have only a handful of the amazing shots from his complete collection.

It is rare for me to see a person come through the gallery that is not drawn to his art work in a profound and personal way; his work touches you. As I got to know Phil better, I realized the magic he draws from his subjects is really a part of the way he is personally able to break through any kind of barriers with anyone. This is true regardless of language (or other) barriers that might exist.  A deep compassion bubbles up from him that is felt right off.

Asgeli by Phil Borges.   As a leader of the circumcision ceremony, Asgeli had performed hundreds of female circumcisions. Now, like others in the village, she is supportive of the change in custom that Abay had advocated. She said, “We did the circumcisions because that is what had always been done.We were in the dark house and did not know.”

Asgeli by Phil Borges. As a leader of the circumcision ceremony, Asgeli had performed hundreds of female circumcisions. Now, like others in the village, she is supportive of the change in custom that Abay had advocated. She said, “We did the circumcisions because that is what had always been done.We were in the dark house and did not know.”

The modern black and white photography landscape has been shaped largely by the greats early in the last century who used large format view cameras to capture their amazing images of the American West.  Phil Borges uses a variety of cameras, but most commonly he uses a 2.25 inch format camera such as the Hasselblad.

Phil Borges area of focus is modern black and white portrait photography. Up until very recently, he has been very purist about using only film and special Kodak papers.  However, as the availability of these materials has diminished to the point he can no longer reliably get them, he has been forced to start doing some of his work in black and white digital photography.

Rufo by Phil Borges.  I first noticed Rufo as she was walking to school with her sister. The elegant wardrobe that she had created with remnants and scraps of cloth fasinated me. Like most Boran girls in southern Ethiopia, she spends her days collecting water and firewood, herding the goats and helping her mother cook. Her labor plays a vital role in her family’s survival.

Rufo by Phil Borges. I first noticed Rufo as she was walking to school with her sister. The elegant wardrobe that she had created with remnants and scraps of cloth fasinated me. Like most Boran girls in southern Ethiopia, she spends her days collecting water and firewood, herding the goats and helping her mother cook. Her labor plays a vital role in her family’s survival.

Another amazing dimension of Phil Borges work his involvement in the support of indigenous cultures around the world.  In fact, Phil is an altruist, humanitarian and is devoted to spreading the message of cultural diversity.  It just so happens he uses his fine art black and white photography as his medium for spreading this message.  Phil has worked in conjunction with a number of charities such as Amnesty International, CARE and others in order to send some much needed revenues back into the areas where he has acquired his incredible black and white figure photography images.

The message of Phil’s work therefore, comes together at a variety of levels to be what it is. Whether it be the story telling, the art, a humanitarian cause and any number of other ways his message weaves together into a cohesive fine art form and cultural message.  It is very rare to meet an artist who’s work and message is so driven at so many deeply connected ways.

Palden by Phil Borges.  Palden was arrested at his monastery in 1959 and spent 24 years in prison, where he was tortured frequently --actually loosing 20 teeth in one beating. He managed to flee Tibet in 1987 and came to Dharamsala. He told me “I no longer have anger for my captors. However, I feel it is my responsibility to let the outside world know what is happening in Tibet.”

Palden by Phil Borges. Palden was arrested at his monastery in 1959 and spent 24 years in prison, where he was tortured frequently --actually loosing 20 teeth in one beating. He managed to flee Tibet in 1987 and came to Dharamsala. He told me “I no longer have anger for my captors. However, I feel it is my responsibility to let the outside world know what is happening in Tibet.”

There is another part of Phil Borges work that deserves mention.  On top of all the other factors, Phil’s work has tremendous value for the fine art collector.  I have personally watched his any number of his works escalate from a low level starting price of less than $1500 or so, to escalate to as high as $17,000 in value.

At the gallery, we serve more black and white photography collectors in pursuit of Phils work than any other gallery in the world. Our black and white photography website offers the full collection of Phil Borges works and our staff is the most knowledgeable in the world on his amazing black and white fine art photography.

Abi Guls father spent eleven years fighting in the Pakistan courts to keep the Kalash valleys from being logged. For the Kalash, who have animist cosmology, trees are very sacred. Three years ago Abi Guls father was killed by a bomb that was thrown into their little two-room home. Her uncle continued the court case and finally won the judgement. Abi Gul was very serious and quiet. Very dillegent, she stayed by my side and assisted me as I photographed her friends and relatives in her small village.

Abi Gul's father spent eleven years fighting in the Pakistan courts to keep the Kalash valleys from being logged. For the Kalash, who have animist cosmology, trees are very sacred. Three years ago Abi Gul's father was killed by a bomb that was thrown into their little two-room home. Her uncle continued the court case and finally won the judgement. Abi Gul was very serious and quiet. Very dillegent, she stayed by my side and assisted me as I photographed her friends and relatives in her small village.

As we finished our meal and headed back to the art show at the gallery featuring Phil Borges work (in conjunction with CARE) where a huge crowd awaited him, I marveled at the stories he shared with me and the experiences he had in traveling to exotic uncharted corners of the world to meet special people of indigenous cultures around the world.

Phil Borges is a magnet personality with a huge message about where and what and who we are in the world.  His works have value that touches your heart and invests well.  But you don’t have to meet and have dinner with this precious man as I was privledged to do in order for his amazing works to touch your heart.  You can experience this heartfelt essence in every one of his black and white photograpic works of art.

Written by Rob Mitchell

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