Alexander Artway Photos of Browns Mills and New Jersey
Exhibition Dates: September 2019 - 2020
Whitesbog Historic Village in Browns Mills, NJ
Architect and photographer Alexander Artemiev was born in Belarus in 1903 and later went into exile in Europe. In June 1922, he entered America on Ellis Island under the name Alexander Artway. He later settled in Philadelphia.
With his camera, Artway documented his home country, his travels as a merchant marine, and the New York City skyline. In 1938, he built a “dacha” – a simple country home – in Browns Mills, New Jersey. He went there every summer to embrace a life that was simple and where his family came first. There, he captured the aesthetic beauty of Mirror Lake and the surrounding area until his death in 1963.
From the time we were very young, my parents took my brother and I from our busy, often chaotic lives in Philadelphia to the carefree and peaceful world of Browns Mills. My father was an architect and a photographer, and over the years, he documented our family life with his camera. Eventually, my parents built a house on the corner of Poppy and Brynwood drives that my brother inherited and lost some years later.
As a child, my time in Browns Mills was total freedom. My brother and I shared boats with the neighborhood kids. We spent our days swimming – there were three beaches – and roaming in the woods. We fished for bass and catfish. If we got hungry, we ate blueberries. Each of us kids had a different call if our parents wanted us to come home. The lake would carry the sound. On Sundays, we went to St. Anne’s Church and, afterward, we would go mushroom picking or visit the blueberry bog. I could always mark my father's property by the trees, and sure enough, that old pine tree is still there. It must be hundreds of years old now.
I didn’t think about Browns Mills for much of my life. I would go once or twice a year to visit the house and walk in the woods. Then, more than fifty years later, in 2014, when my husband was nearing the end of his life, I bought my own house here to have a place to spend the summers, a respite from Philadelphia. I spend my days reading, playing the piano, studying Russian, and going out in my canoe. In many ways, this is where I find my soul. I think it is also where my father found his soul. Browns Mills was always a kind of fantasy – an escape from the much harsher realities of my complex family life – where even my troubled brother could relax and find peace. As I age, I find that I can rekindle, at 77 years old, a carefree playfulness and joy that we embraced here together as a family so many decades ago. It is ever-present – alive – in the preserved beauty of this sanctuary.