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Objectivity and Deadpan: Examples from a German context

Main concerns: A short history of German photography, looking primarily at those photographers who approach their subject with a lack of style - foregrounding objectivity rather than a subjective [snap-shot] approach.

*August Sander and his Citizens of the Twentieth Century (begun c.1910, never completed) *Bernd and Hilla Becher architectural photography, 1960s to today *post-Becher school of photography: Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Candida Hofer, from the very late 1970s to today

Key terms / areas for this session: Objective / Subjective what is the difference? How can they work on each other productively? Disinterestedness + Distance approaching a subject without affecting it how to remove oneself as a photographer whilst allowing the subject in front of the lens to assert themselves Deadpan as the repression of style

Other areas: 1. SYSTEM the archive (the gathering of data) a chosen photographic system (and its attendant rules) 2. SUBJECT the personal / the social (the individual / the people) the portrait (of what?) 3. REPETITION the serial, the sequence (non)expression

A context: New Vision vs. New Objectivity

NEW VISION:! Lucia and Lzl Moholy-Nagy,! Florence Henri! ! Fractured or attened images, odd perspectives, a new way of seeing!

Lzl Moholy-Nagy, Berlin, c 1930 Lzl Moholy-Nagy, Berlin Radio Tower, c 1928

Lucia Moholy, Portrait of Florence Henri, 1926-27 Lucia Moholy, Bauhaus-Workshop Building, 1926

Florence Henri, Still Life with Lemon and Pear, c 1929 Florence Henri, Window Composition (view through window of the communal bath in the Bauhaus studio complex, Dessau), 1927

Neue Sachlichkeit! (New Objectivity)! ! Albert Renger-Patzsch,! Karl Blossfeldt,! (August Sander)! ! Clear lines, uncluttered image, direct approach to topic or subject!

Albert Renger-Patzsch, Intersecting braces of a Truss Bridge in Duisburg-Hochfeldt, 1928 "

Albert Renger-Patzsch, Shoe Lasts at the Fagus Works, Alfeld, 1926

Albert Renger-Patzsch, Kaffee Hag, 1925, design for a poster Albert Renger-Patzsch, Round Flasks, Schott Glassworks, Jena, 1934

Karl Blossfeldt, from Art Forms in Nature, 1928 Rough horsetail; Young shoot; rough horsetail; Rough horsetails

Renger-Patzsch

vs.

Moholy-Nagy

AUGUST SANDER

An attempt to map an entire social culture, not just in terms of individual but in terms of classes, in terms of classications: from the men of the earth via modern man to the dispossessed and insane A social typology of German society He uses an already existing system, that of the portrait, but uses it in such a way that he suppresses his own author function, a suppression of style for simplicity and consistency of image. [traditional form portrait meets radical process - the system]

August Sander: the basic thought of my photographic work Citizens of the Twentieth Century, which began in 1910 is nothing but an attempt to make a physiognomical time exposure of German man

A remarkable attempt to document all of a society, not just the high or low, rich or poor, rather the entire system" " An exhaustive and allinclusive approach" (An unending task)"

Two pronged method Traditional form: the portrait (transmissibility of the likeness of the sitter a celebration of their identity) Radical form: the series, the sequence (a form that requires a suppression of style and a focus on relationality comparing one image to the next a giving away of originality of each image [they become boring] to allow a whole system to emerge the piece becomes a composite portrait of a nation)

Some notes on technique: 1. The portraits act as a critical inquiry, not a attering likeness 2. The portraits are made in the context of the subject, their space denes them as much as their title, pose, or clothing 3. The portraits make obvious the sitters relationship to the camera, it refuses the glimpse of some-one elses reality, showing instead the situation: photographercamera-subject (hence the ugly stiffness of the gures) 4. The pictures repress stylistic brilliance for continuity of series: repetition of technique allows a picture from 1910 to be compared to one from 1930. Thus the series becomes a series in / on time

Some notes on technique: 1. The portraits act as a critical inquiry, not a attering likeness 2. The portraits are made in the context of the subject, their space denes them as much as their title, pose, or clothing 3. The portraits make obvious the sitters relationship to the camera, it refuses the glimpse of some-one elses reality, showing instead the situation: photographercamera-subject (hence the ugly stiffness of the gures) 4. The pictures repress stylistic brilliance for continuity of series: repetition of technique allows a picture from 1910 to be compared to one from 1930. Thus the series becomes a series in / on time

Some notes on technique: 1. The portraits act as a critical inquiry, not a attering likeness 2. The portraits are made in the context of the subject, their space denes them as much as their title, pose, or clothing 3. The portraits make obvious the sitters relationship to the camera, it refuses the glimpse of some-one elses reality, showing instead the situation: photographercamera-subject (hence the ugly stiffness of the gures) 4. The pictures repress stylistic brilliance for continuity of series: repetition of technique allows a picture from 1910 to be compared to one from 1930. Thus the series becomes a series in / on time

Some notes on technique: 1. The portraits act as a critical inquiry, not a attering likeness 2. The portraits are made in the context of the subject, their space denes them as much as their title, pose, or clothing 3. The portraits make obvious the sitters relationship to the camera, it refuses the glimpse of some-one elses reality, showing instead the situation: photographercamera-subject (hence the ugly stiffness of the gures) 4. The pictures repress stylistic brilliance for continuity of series: repetition of technique allows a picture from 1910 to be compared to one from 1930. Thus the series becomes a series in / on time

The photographed situation: ! 1. Made transparent (I am here, with you alienating? stiff?) ! 2. Repressed / hidden (a y on the wall / sentimental illusion?)!

The photographed situation: ! 1. Made transparent (I am here, with you alienating? stiff?) ! 2. Repressed / hidden (a y on the wall / sentimental illusion?)!

The photographed situation: ! 1. Made transparent (I am here, with you alienating? stiff?) ! 2. Repressed / hidden (a y on the wall / sentimental illusion?)!

The demonstrative gesture: I am here, doing this, for you to see Bertolt Brecht: The prerequisite for producing the [alienation] effect is that the actor must accentuate what he has to show with a clear demonstrative gesture. It is necessary, of course, to abandon the concept of a fourth wall ctionally closing off the stage from the stage and creating the illusion that the staged scene takes place in reality, in the absence of the audience This in turn gives the audience an attitude of inquiry and criticism towards the scene

BERND + HILLA BECHER

Some themes: The particular vs. the general The self-evident as non-self-evident the obvious AS oblique Artworks as showing us the real world as refracted (as altered) through noncommunication, inexpressiveness

Their work seems to strongly resist, or even evacuate, subjectivity, rejecting this for typographic studies, comparing buildings and their types [coal bunkers, grain silos, water towers etc.]. Bechers: You have to be honest with your object to make sure that you do not destroy it with your subjectivity

The images are so particular to their project they seem to resist semiotic analysis - in terms of coding, they seem able to reject all readings a kind of non-stick / wipe-clean photography Their relation to realism / documentary could be seen to be problematic as the images deny motivation, affect or event, seemingly rejecting the capturing of the moment replacing that with the play of innite and minute variation. - The multi-part nature of the works denies the singularity of the photographic image Theodor Adorno: out of nothing, something happens Are the Bechers photographs in-signicant - do they refuse to signify?

The work of comparative analysis Talbot, Muybridge, Bechers

The work of comparative analysis Talbot, Muybridge, Bechers

The work of comparative analysis Talbot, Muybridge, Bechers

Bechers / Walker Evans: vernacular architecture, the everyday conditions

The method of frontality

Some notes on technique: *A refusal of subjective interiority *Refusal of guring man and concentration on spaces that dene man *Their deadpan frontal approach refuses the dynamism of technological utopia used by MoholyNagy or Rodchenko, lack of horizon lines or of visual dynamics in the Bechers work *Denial of narrative time through serial typology of an archaic modernism *An isolation of the utopian narrative of technological progress in decline *Situations of work, not the gure of the worker

POST-BECHER SCHOOL: GURSKY / RUFF / HOFER From the series to the tableau The epic (the everyday) (the ungraspable) and the relational The work of the cognitive map?

ANDREAS GURSKY: Social architecture - Social systems, the object lled with subjects, some conditions of modern life

An impossible subject to picture: the economy?

An impossible subject to picture: the economy?

A model of street photography ! ! Where is the street here? Not a contingent point of view but a meta overview turning the public space into an ant-hill for inspection ! ! epic distance a tableau not a series ! (comparison within the image not between images) !

THOMAS RUFF: Where is the person in their own face, where is the action, what kind of photograph is this

Ruff: Im interested in reproduction, in how pictures are taken. The picture I take of a person has nothing to do with the person anymore. It has its own reality, its own autonomous existence. It becomes independent of the person it presents. It is a photograph of a person, taken at a particular time, under particular conditions

The portrait as convention not as special The portrait between identity and celebration

The portrait as convention not as special The portrait between identity and celebration

CANDIDA HOFER: Bodies of knowledge, knowledge-production as the work of relation between bodies

*What bodies of knowledge are we given here? *Literally, bodies arranged for knowledge (for the scientist and the child) *A tension: are these photographs of bodies or of spaces or of systems of arrangement? (images of the way knowledge is transmitted)

A nal tendency in conclusion: The work of comparison as the work of relation No thing stands on its own no single image or single body instead these works operate via readings between things There is objectivity in the image, whilst there is always subjectivity in the comparisons made or there is a question about how subjectivity is produced (nation, factory, economy, museum as subjects, as sites of subjectivity production)