Posts Tagged ‘Michael Fried

17
Aug
14

Exhibition: ‘People In A River Landscape: August Sander And The Photography Of The Present From The Lothar Schirmer Collection’ at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 24th August 2014

 

August Sander. 'Stadtwald [Urban Forest]' c. 1938

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Stadtwald [Urban Forest]
c. 1938
Gelatin silver print
23 x 29cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

What a fascinating exhibition this looks to be… I wish I could see it!
Quite a few Sander photographs I have never seen before in the posting.
Sander is another photographer that would be near the top of my list.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Pinakothek der Moderne for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

August Sander. 'Children in the city' 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Children in the city
1930
Gelatin silver print
21.3 x 26cm (sheet)
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Alter Posthof in Bacharach' 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Alter Posthof in Bacharach
1926
Gelatin silver print
15.3 x 21.4cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Sander-Die-Familie-WEB

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Die Familie in der Generation
1912
Gelatin silver print
21.5 x 28.6cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Deutz Bridge, Rhine in winter' 1937

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Deutz Bridge, Rhine in winter
1937
Gelatin silver print
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'The Rhine near Boppard, Osterspey' 1938

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Rhine near Boppard, Osterspey
1938
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 29.3 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Andreas Gursky. 'The Rhine II' 1999

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
The Rhine II
1999
Chromogenic print
1564 x 3083 mm

 

August Sander. 'View from the Mülheim Bridge, Sunrise' 1938

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
View from the Mülheim Bridge, Sunrise
1938
Gelatin silver print
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

August Sander’s epochal cycle People of the 20th Century is considered one of the most important works in the history of art and photography of the last century.

Sander’s photographic typology of German society did not only fascinate artists, writers and philosophers of that period but, at the same time, formed an important point of reference for the artistic concept contemporary photographers had of themselves. This is also reflected in the Munich publisher Lothar Schirmer’s photographic collection, the starting point of which was a group of some 80 works by Sander comprising not only portraits, but also landscapes and urban pictures, acquired in the early 1970s.

This batch of works, acquired from the artist’s estate back in the 1970s, comprises not only more than 40 originals of Sander’s famous portraits, including masterpieces such as the Stammmappe focussing on farmers in Westerwald, the portrait of the artist Heinrich Hoerle in the austere style of New Objectivity and Handlanger, with its impressive visual directness, but also a rare group of lesser known Rhineland landscapes and vedute of Cologne from the 1930s. Precisely the last two groups of works mentioned are enduring proof that Sander’s vision of an equally authentic and veritable document of the times was not only to be limited to people within their social and societal structure but should also include their immediate surroundings, the landscape and the urban environment – an aspect that, for a long time, was given little attention in analyses of the photographer’s work since his death in April, fifty years ago.

In view of the undisputed importance of Sander’s portraits, it is surprising that a more extensive selection of the photographer’s work is only now to be seen in the exhibition People in a River Landscape – and that in Munich too, although there were in fact a number of links between the artist and the city. Sander’s pioneering photography book, Antlitz der Zeit, was published in 1929 by the Munich-based Kurt Wolff Verlag; one year later, his works were to be seen in the exhibition Das Lichtbild – one of the rare presentations of Sander’s works anywhere before 1933; and in the 1960s and ’70s his extensive estate was stored not far from Munich.

Sander’s photographs from this collection will be exhibited for the first time in their entirety and be displayed in dialogue with works by contemporary artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth and Jeff Wall. The selection will be extended by a rare group of extraordinary photographs taken in Berlin by Heinrich Zille in the late 19th /early 20th century and enlarged by Thomas Struth almost 100 years later.

The exhibition presents a both representative and focussed cross section of Sander’s photographic oeuvre. At the same time it shows the medium of photography in a wider perspective by placing individual groups of works by Sander in dialogue with those of contemporary artists. Starting with a typology by Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose encyclopaedically structured work can be regarded as an immediate successor to Sander’s photographic credo, the selection – supplemented by works from the holdings of the Sammlung Moderne Kunst – includes Andreas Gursky’s Rhine picture, urban views by Thomas Struth and Jeff Wall and portraits by Thomas Ruff and Cindy Sherman, among others. The interplay between the past and the present, between small-format, black-and-white prints and colour images the size of large canvases, between austere documentary works and staged and digitally processed pictures, not only illustrates the immediate relevance of Sander’s concept, far beyond any temporal or formal distinctions, but also how photography has become established as an artistic form of expression in its own right within the context of contemporary art. This topic will be explored in greater depth in the accompanying series of lectures Why Photography Matters, at which the artists Hilla Becher and Thomas Struth, as well as the art historians Wolfgang Kemp and Michael Fried will be speaking. As a modest homage to another historical precursor, the exhibition finishes with a rare group of photographs of Berlin by Heinrich Zille taken at the turn of the century, which Thomas Struth enlarged and reinterpreted in 1985 using the original negatives.

Press release from the Pinakothek der Moderne website

 

Jeff Wall. 'The Thinker' 1986

 

Jeff Wall (Canadian, b. 1946)
The Thinker
1986
Large-format slides in lightbox
216 x 229 cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
Courtesy of the artist
© Jeff Wall

 

August Sander. 'Handlanger [Odd-job man]' 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Handlanger [Odd-job man]
1928
Gelatin silver print
43.0 x 28.5cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Cindy Sherman. 'Untitled #127' 1983

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled #127
1983
© Cindy Sherman / Courtesy Schirmer/Mosel München

 

August Sander. 'The Architect [Hans Poelzig]' 1929

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Architect [Hans Poelzig]
1929
Gelatin silver print
40 x 29.8cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Thomas Ruff. 'Portrait (T. Ruff)' [Selfportrait] 1987

 

Thomas Ruff (German, b. 1958)
Portrait (T. Ruff) [Selfportrait]
1987
C-Print/Diasec
210 x 165cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Der erdgebundene Mensch' [The Earthbound Human] 1910

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Der erdgebundene Mensch [The Earthbound Human]
1910
Gelatin silver print
29.2 x 23.1cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander. 'Bauernpaar - Zucht und Harmonie' [Peasant Couple - Breeding and Harmony] 1912

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Bauernpaar – Zucht und Harmonie [Peasant Couple – Breeding and Harmony]
1912
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 23.1cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Thomas Struth. 'Alte Pinakothek, Self-portrait, Munich' 2000

 

Thomas Struth (German, b. 1954)
Alte Pinakothek, Self-portrait, Munich
2000
© Thomas Struth / Courtesy Schirmer/Mosel München

 

August Sander. 'Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]' 1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]
1928
Gelatin silver print
59.3 x 47.7cm
Lothar Schirmer Collection, Munich
© The Photographic Collection, SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archive, Cologne, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Strasse 40
Munich

Opening hours:
Daily except Monday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm

Pinakothek der Moderne website

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14
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Tim Hetherington / Doug Rickard’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 22nd May to 22nd June 2013
In association with Yossi Milo Gallery and Head On Photo Festival

 

Tim Hetherington. 'Alcantara, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Alcantara, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

 

“Our generation is not attached to this myth of photography as objective reporting because we know it’s not. And so he and I had been kind of playing with the idea of, so where is that line? What does that mean? Are we, by definition, objective? Is there something else that can be reported about war that can be more about the experience? That touches on what it’s like to be there, on the individual conflict of what it means to be there? That’s what that particular work is about.”

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Chris Anderson

 

 

The intimacy of war

Both of these series depict human bodies under surveillance. In one (Tim Hetherington) the subject is un/aware. Having given the photographer prior consent to be photographed while they were sleeping the American servicemen remain blissfully unaware of the result of the camera “snapping” them. Just as they seem to be on the very verge of snapping in the video Sleeping Soldiers_single screen (2009, below). The psychological scars of war don’t differentiate between awake and asleep, aware and unaware:

“The photographer wanted to reveal the soldiers how they must seem to their mothers: innocent, vulnerable. Still it is a portrait of the scars of war because, as Hetherington said, their sleep was often helped along by drugs… That a soldier allowed Hetherington to capture him while asleep illustrates the photographer’s dedication and connection to the platoon.” (Philip Brookman, Corcoran chief curator on the Washington Post website [Online] Cited 12/06/2013)

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Hetherington spent 15 months in Afghanistan between 2007-2008 following the members of a 15-strong platoon of US paratroopers at one of the most remote and dangerous outposts in the war zone. He went on to make the award winning film Restrepo (2010) with the footage that he shot during his year-long engagement with the spaces of war. In repose, the US soldiers seem angelic, contemplative, or vulnerable: in the photographs posted here I see Adonis (Alcantara), foetal (Kelso), corpse (Lizama) and death mask (Richardson). As Michael Fried comments on the 1930s Walker Evans subway photographs were he took pictures of commuters with a hidden camera, “the notion that persons who are unaware of being photographed who at the limit are unaware of being beheld manifest the inner truth of their meaning on their faces.” This way of capturing an inner truth is rare in the history of art. While there are plenty of individual paintings that depict sleeping men in art I could find no body of work that depicts men sleeping in photography.

Although the exhibition is of the still photographs, what I find most chilling however is how Hetherington melds the sleeping bodies with action footage in the video. The overlaying of the sound of helicopters onto images of the sleeping soldiers, the blending of bodies and machines, the reverberation of voices with the rat tat tat of heavy weapons fire is particularly disturbing. The look in the soldier’s eyes as he freaks out when one of his compatriots is shot at 3.24 – 3.38 of the video is frightening. The grief, the fear, palpable – and then to end the video with the corpse-like body of Lizama… THIS is the horror of war. Kill or be killed, boredom, nightmares, as if fighting and sleeping in a dream. Hetherington lays it all on the line for the viewer.

“For me, it’s kind of the closest thing I’ve seen, in any form, that actually shows what it must feel like to be in combat. You’re right there with the soldiers, and they’re not heroic; they’re really just struggling to come to terms with what is going on around them. That’s really what this is. So instead of showing them just being honourable, he’s showing this stuff, the scenes of them being in combat, as a kind of dream.” (Philip Brookman, Corcoran chief curator)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to Stills Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“The book and film are about the intimacy of war,” explains Hetherington. “And that’s what I see when I see the photographs of these guys sleeping. We are used to seeing soldiers as cardboard cut-outs. We dehumanise them, but war is a very intimate act. All of those soldiers would die for each other. We’re not talking about friendship. We’re talking about brotherhood.”

“You can get bored of taking pictures of fighting,” he says. “I got more interested in the relationship between the soldiers. That’s where the shots of them sleeping came from. If you go to these places you can sometimes get all your media oxygen sucked up by the fighting; we were lucky to have time to explore other things.”

“In America, soldiers are used by the right wing as a symbol of patriotic duty, but the truth is they are all individuals,” he concludes. “And the Left want a moral condemnation of the war. What I say is that if we have a full understanding of what the soldiers can and can’t do out there, it is a good starting point for peace-building. The heart of the war machine is in fact taking a group of young men and putting them on the side of a mountain. We need to understand that experience. Certainly if we have any hope of properly reintegrating them into society.”

Rob Sharp. “Combat fatigue: Tim Hetherington’s intimate portraits of US soldiers at rest reveal the other side of Afghanistan,” on The Independent website, 11th September 2010 [Online] Cited 19/09/2022

 

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Donoho, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Donoho, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Kim, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Kim, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Lizama, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Lizama, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Nevalla, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Nevalla, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011) 'Richardson, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

 

Tim Hetherington (British, 1970-2011)
Richardson, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

 

Sleeping Soldiers_single screen (2009) from Tim Hetherington.

 

 

In association with Head On Photo Festival, Stills Gallery is delighted to host compelling works by two internationally acclaimed artists, Tim Hetherington and Doug Rickard, brought to Australian audiences from Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

Without the guns and artillery of war, or the armor of bravado and aggression, Tim Hetherington’s images of sleeping American soldiers are disarmingly peaceful and childlike in their vulnerability. Hetherington observed this active-duty battalion while they were stationed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley during 2007-08, capturing beneath the camouflage the most intimate of moments, which are seemingly at odds with common reportage images of adrenaline-fuelled and stony-faced soldiers. Through his photographs, writing and films, Tim Hetherington gave us new ways to look at and think about human suffering. Tim was tragically killed on April 20, 2011, while photographing and filming the conflict in Libya.

Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture depicts American street scenes, located using the internet platform Google Street View. Over a four-year period, Rickard virtually explored the roads of America looking for forgotten, economically devastated, and largely abandoned places. After locating and composing scenes of urban and rural decay, Rickard re-photographed the images on his computer screen, freeing the image from its technological origins and re-presenting them on a new documentary plane. Rickard’s work evokes a connection to the tradition of American street photography. He both follows and advances that tradition, with a documentary strategy that acknowledges an increasingly technological world. Collectively, these images present a photographic portrait of the socially disenfranchised and economically powerless, those living an inversion of the American Dream.

Both artists are highly regarded for their contributions to contemporary photographic and film practices. Before his untimely death Hetherington received numerous accolades for his documentation of conflict zones, including the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year, the Rory Peck Award for Features (2008), an Alfred I. duPont Award (2009), and an Academy Award nomination for Restrepo (2011). His work has posthumously become part of the Magnum Photo Archive. Doug Rickard is founder of American Suburb X and These Americans, and his work has been widely exhibited including in New Photography 2011 at MOMA, New York, Le Bal, Paris, and the 42nd edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles. A monograph of A New American Picture was first published in 2010 and was rereleased in 2012.This is the first opportunity for Australian audiences to see many of these works, and it is also a new collaboration with the prestigious Yossi Milo Gallery, established in 2000, and focused on the representation of artists specialising in photo-based art, video and works on paper.

Text from the Stills Gallery website

 

Doug Rickard. '#32.700542, Dallas, TX (2009)' 2011

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#32.700542, Dallas, TX (2009)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

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Doug Rickard. '#34.546147, Helena-West Helena, AR (2008)' 2010

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#34.546147, Helena-West Helena, AR (2008)
2010
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#40.700776, Jersey City, NJ (2007)' 2011

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#40.700776, Jersey City, NJ (2007)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#40.805716, Bronx, NY (2007)' 2011

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#40.805716, Bronx, NY (2007)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#82.948842, Detroit, MI (2009)' 2010

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#82.948842, Detroit, MI (2009)
2010
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
101.6 x 162.56cm
Edition of 5 + 3AP

 

Doug Rickard. '#114.196622, Lennox, CA (2007)' 2012

 

Doug Rickard (American, b. 1968)
#114.196622, Lennox, CA (2007)
2012
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

 

 

Stills Gallery

This gallery has now closed.

Stills Gallery website

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12
Apr
11

Review: ‘In Spates’ by Sam Shmith at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 23rd April 2011

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 2)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian born England, b. 1980)
Untitled (In Spates 2)
2011
125 x 75cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

 

The Digital Punctum

Spate, definition: A sudden flood, rush, or outpouring

This is a visually strong body of work by Sam Shmith that thematically hangs together beautifully in the Arc One Gallery space. The mystery, the sublime and the journey are well handled by the artist. As a spectral ‘body’ the photographs work together to create a new form of hallucination, one that haunts and perturbs the mind, like a disturbing psychological thriller a la David Lynchian ‘Twin Peaks’. The work, as a whole, becomes a meta-narrative and as Shmith develops as an artist, they seem to me like work that has journeyed to the point of departure. The viewer is (not really) flying, (not really) floating above the clouds observing the meta-narrative, creating a visual memory of things. Spectral luminescences, not-quite-right perspectives, the photograph as temporal hallucination.

Shmith’s photographs are constructed from “30-40 photographs per pictorial narrative” taken during the day and then digitally darkened: the clouds from Queensland, the cities from here, the cars from there. To be honest the clouds and cities could be from anywhere they are just part of the process. Shmith’s technique is interesting to know and then is quickly forgotten when looking at the photographs – like reading, it does not become the meaning (just a layer) of the work. The images, when constructed (however!) take me to other spaces and memories, opening up new vistas in my imagination.

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Shmith’s series acts as a punctum, working to create an unitary impression on the mind that pricks my consciousness. The whole work becomes punctum. This is a very interesting and powerful proposition.

The punctum, as argued by Barthes in Camera Lucida, relies on the QUESTION OF INTENTIONALITY – the detail that pricks and wounds is an unconscious act on the part of the photographer – not one of intention. It cannot be perceived by the photographer or indeed anyone else in the present. In other words, when the photographer photographs the total object, he cannot not not photograph the part object, which is what the punctum is:

“Hence the detail which interests me is not, or a least not strictly, intentional, and probably must not be so; it occurs in the field of the photographer thing like a supplement that is at once inevitable and graceful; it does not necessarily attest to the photographer’s art; it says only that the photographer was there, or else, still more simply, that he could not not photograph the partial object at the same time as the total object … The photographer’s “second sight” does not consist in “seeing” but in being there. And above all, imitating Orpheus, he must not turn back to look at what he is leading – what he is giving to me!” (CL 47/CC 79-80)

As Michael Fried observes in his analysis of Camera Lucida, the punctum is “antitheatrical” in the sense that we see it for ourselves and are not shown it by the photographer: it is not consciously constructed by the photographer but unconsciously captured as part of the total object:

“As Fried has argued, the experience of the punctum lives or dies for Barthes according to the absence of presence of intentionality on the part of the photographer; if there is visible intention, there is no punctum. That the punctum can exist only in the absence of intention is consistent, Fried claims, with his distinction between “seeing” (understood positively as antitheatrical) and “being shown” (understood negatively as theatrical). The possibility of the punctum is cancelled if bound to the photographer’s intention – if we are shown what can only be seen. As Fried states: “The punctum, we might say, is seen by Barthes but not because it has been shown to him by the photographer, for whom it does not exist; as Barthes recognizes, ‘it occurs [only] in the photographic field of the photographed thing,’ which is to say that it is not a pure artefact of the photographic event.”1

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This changes in digital photography, especially with photographs such as Shmith’s constructed from 30-40 photographs. Here the construction can only be intentional (or can it?), dissolving the relation between referent and photograph, the unseen nature of punctum and the ability to not not photograph the part object:

“Fried mentions the subject I have in mind when he says digital photographs undermine the condition of the punctum by making it impossible that “a partial object in the photograph that might otherwise prick or wound me may never have been part of a total object, which itself may be a digital construction” (Michael Fried, “Barthes’s Punctum,” Critical Inquiry 31, Spring 2005, p.563). In the sentence just preceding that, Fried notes that digitalization “threatens to dissolve the ‘adherence’ of the referent to the photograph,” thus ending the fundamental claim that “the photographer could not not photograph the partial object at the same time as the total object.”2

But the digital punctum still exists. Shmith’s work is evidence of this. It exists in the mind of the artist and viewer, external to rather than strictly “in” or “of” the image:

“Curiously, however, Barthes does claim in Camera Lucida that the punctum may also be of the mind, or at the level of remembrance, rather than strictly “in” or “of” the image: “… the punctum (is) revealed only after the fact, when the photograph is no longer in front of me and I think back on it. I may know better a photograph I remember than a photograph I am looking at, as if direct vision oriented its language wrongly, engaging it in an effort of description which will always miss its point of effect, the punctum” (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 53.) Indeed, the punctum is a most difficult thing to pin down, or, should one say, to prick. Fried recognizes the truly aporetic [characterised by an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction] nature of the punctum when he points to certain affinities between the literalist work of the Minimalists and the punctum, whereby the Minimalists understood the relationship between the literalist work and the beholder as ’emphatically not determined by the work itself’, suggesting that meaning in literalism was essentially indeterminate.”3

As James Elkins has observed, the punctum, or the image’s antitheatricality, is not necessarily threatened by digitalisation either through the detaching of the referent from the photograph or through the detaching of the part object from the full object within the image itself.

“The presence and efficaciousness of the part object are independent of digitalisation because the concept of the part object arises from a certain understanding of the internal structure of pictures and objects. Part objects can be found as readily in photographs of galaxies, which are assembled from layers of cleaned and enhanced digital images, as in the background of Wessing’s Nicaragua. Nor does the detachment of the photograph from its referent threaten the operation of the punctum because photographs with subjects that are wholly digitally constructed can be understood as having overlooked elements waiting to be discovered by each viewer.”4

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My belief is that the digital photographer can evidence punctum in the construction of image through an anticipation of it’s affect – either consciously or unconsciously. Not through the ‘placement’ inside disparate texts but a holistic embedding through intertextuality. The punctum becomes the (non)intentional ground of discovery – the part part object if you like – the prick among many photographs now created as one,
in this case 30-40 turned into one pictorial narrative. The punctum does not have to be part of a total object and digitalisation does not undermine the punctum; it may even enhance it so that, in this case, the whole series becomes punctum.

Shmith’s series and individual photographs within the series work best when the artist lets go of his consciousness and lets the ‘thing itself’ emerge, like a Japanese haiku poem. While consciously constructed by the artist the haiku takes on a life and meaning of it’s own outside the confines of intentionality.

“The artist can proffer a ‘releasement toward things’ (Heidegger, Martin. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56), a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving which sustains the mystery of the object confusing the distinction between real time and sensual time, between inside and outside, input and output becoming neither here nor there. The mystery of the image is not to be found in its emasculation (in the sense of it’s deprivation of vigour) but by being attentive to the dropping a way of awareness, of memory, imagination, and the fixed gaze of desire through the glimpsing of a coexistence between a conscious and unconscious way of perceiving, a ‘releasement towards things’ which enables the seeing of the ‘Thing Itself’.”5

While Shmith’s series works as a whole and there are some wonderful individual images occasionally the artist has become too conscious of the punctum, the marks he intentionally makes. There are too many planes in clouds, the marking of these planes loosing their aura of (in)significance. They should be discovered afresh, “overlooked elements waiting to be discovered by each viewer,” not intentionally placed and shown by the artist. The series needed other themes embedded within them to allow the viewer to discover, to journey – more! As I said in the opening paragraph the photographs seems to me like work that has journeyed to the point of departure.

And what an exciting departure it is, for what happens next is in his, and our, imagination.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Fried, Michael. “Barthes’s Punctum,” in Critical Inquiry 31, Spring 2005 quoted in Hughes, Gordon. “Camera Lucida, Circa 1980,” in Batchen, Geoffrey (ed.,). Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009
  2. Elkins, James. “What Do We Want Photography To Be?” in Batchen, Geoffrey (ed.,). Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009, pp. 176-177
  3. Haraldsson, Arni. “Fried’s Turn,” on Fillip website, Spring 2004 [Online] Cited 12/04/2011. fillip.ca/content/frieds-turn
  4. Elkins, Op. cit.
  5. Bunyan, Marcus. “Spaces That Matter: Awareness and Entropia in the Imaging of Place,” 2002, on the Academia.edu website [Online] Cited 20/07/2022. https://www.academia.edu/4885768/Spaces_That_Matter_Awareness_and_Entropia_in_the_Imaging_of_Place_October_2002_

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Many thankx to Angela Connor for her help and to Arc One Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 14)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian born England, b. 1980)
Untitled (In Spates 14)
2011
50 x 30cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

 

Sam Shmith’s photographs resemble the opening scenes of a Hollywood blockbuster. By harnessing our collective imagination, each image is charged with mystery and intrigue, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions about the narrative embedded in each of the works.

Digitally layered from an image bank of over 60,000 self-shot images, Sam’s twenty-two new landscapes choreograph a series of temporal clues into single images that simultaneously obliterate all references to a particular locality. His works are a hybrid of images from his personal archives, composited so that each journey is no longer distinct, but melded to create their single, artificial realities.

Influenced by François Truffaut’s film Day for Night (1973), the works are shot during the day, and meticulously transformed into twilight scenes. Reworking and repeating particular motifs, these elaborately constructed works are broken up into four distinct groups – sky, mountains, cities and roads. The centre of the frame concentrates an immediate human intervention enveloped by mountainous panoramas, vaporous clouds or close foliage to create a murky tension between the encompassing landscape and specks of synthetic light. Intuitively composited from between 30 to 40 photographs per pictorial narrative, the works are shot from cars, aeroplanes and hot air balloons producing mood scenes that have athematic unity.

Through his methods Sam fashions an unconventional approach to landscape photography. Citing the melancholic landscapes of Bill Henson, the suburban malaise of Gregory Crewdson and drawing motivation from Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents, In Spates communicates the artist’s devotional dedication to the emotive importance of the genre. Though isolation appears as a common theme in his work, Sam’s observations should also be considered as an arbitrary moment viewed from afar, evoking a feeling of alienation and disengagement between the environment and ourselves.

Text from the Arc One Gallery press release

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 5)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian born England, b. 1980)
Untitled (In Spates 5)
2011
125 x 75cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

Sam Shmith. 'Untitled (In Spates 21)' 2011

 

Sam Shmith (Australian born England, b. 1980)
Untitled (In Spates 21)
2011
125 x 75cm
Pigment print on archival rag

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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