I’m glad I have included visits to some of the galleries which has broadened my views in my photographic research and practices. In this section, I share some of my insights from my visit to those exhibition centres and photo galleries.
The first exhibition was Kreuzberg – Amerika. The exhibition was part of the project about the Werkstatt für Photographie 1976 – 1986, in which C/O Berlin, the Museum Folkwang Essen and the Sprengel Museum Hannover are presenting the history, influences and effects of the legendary Berlin-based photographic institute and its key players in an intercity cooperation.
Starting in the 1970s, a younger generation in various initiatives quickly established a new infrastructure for a different perspective on photography. The Werkstatt für Photographie (Workshop for Photography), founded in Berlin by Michael Schmidt in 1976, is one of these innovative models. The Werkstatt für Photographie reached an international recognition through exhibitions, workshops, and courses, establishing itself as an important centre for the transatlantic photographic dialogue between Kreuzberg, Germany, and America. They concentrated on the blunt representation of everyday life and reality in a radical denial of then-common photographic norms. They experimented with new forms of documentary that emphasised the subjective view of the author. They discovered colour as an artistic form of expression and developed an independent, artistic authorship with largely unconventional perspectives.
The three-part exhibition focused on the awakening of a medium, which—encouraged by the self-confidence of American photography—strove to claim autonomous, artistic authorship.
Wilmar Koenig took up photography during his architecture studies in 1972 and was one of Michael Schmidt’s first pupils. Initially, he felt committed to a strictly documentary /objective point of view this gave rise to his first series, Portraits (1976-77) with pictures of people from his own milieu. His portrait works were later transformed into cropped faces that filled the frame. Koenig turned to colour photography and non-hierarchical imagery. This gave rise to various projects including the large format series DieWege (1984-89). After working on natural-history dioramas and the question of perception, Koenig turned his attention to Mulsim and Christian places of worship in Goteshauser (2005-09, Guardini-Stiftung Berlin).
John Gossage deals in his photographic work with facets of the urban environment and nature, the relationship between architecture and power, and the themes of surveillance and memory. As author and publisher with Loosestrife Editions, he devotes particular attention to the medium of the photo book. Gossage’s personal experience of Berlin’s history and its present-day reality became his key theme, elaborated in a radically subjective understanding of the documentary style with the series Stadt de Schwarz (1987) and Berlin in the Time of the Wall (2004).
Lewis Baltz belonged to the New Topographics movement – whose critical, documentary approach represented a new departure in American landscape photography in the 1970s – and in 1975 he participated in New Topographics exhibition in Rochester. His work showed commonplace phenomena like housing estates, industrial buildings, construction sites, and brownfields and made use of the pared-down aesthetic of formally condensed black-and-white photography, whose concentrated forms also had their roots in 1960s’ minimalism.
Baltz focused on portraying functional buildings. In the subsequent series, he describes nature as a landscape situated in the transition to urban structures and the product of socio-economic processes.
Baltz’s landscape works shown in the exhibition has given me an interesting idea of presenting my own landscape images:
The next exhibition project presents Total Records, which comprises around 400 album covers that chronicle the multifaceted interplay between photography and music from the 1960s to the 2000s. It was curated by Antoine de Beaupre, Serge Vincendet, and Sam Stourdze.
Total Records. Vinyl & Photography
vinyl record images have left deep impressions on generations of music fans. it is the picture on the cover that gives congenial visual representation to the music and the artist. it conveys identity and style, leave open diverse possibilities for identification, and it also serces as a banal tool of advertising. An album’s value is often as closely associated with the image on the cover as it is with the musical recording itself. The exhibition Total Records present both classic and lesser-known album covers and trace the musical and photographic history of the 20th century through the sometimes surprising album cover collaborations that have emerged between artsits like Robert Frank and the Rolling Stones, Annie Leibovitz and Cyndi Lauper, Nobuyoshi Araki and Bjork, etc. Visual artists like Andy Warhol, Dieter Roth, Pipllotti Rist and Fishchii /Weiss have also left their mark on vinyl, using album covers as a space for experimentation with diverse photographic techniques and artistic practices.
The exhibition was divided into thematic sections exploring different aspects of this unique art form at the nexus of music and photography. it highlights the intersections and encounters that have led to musical and album concepts being translated into original visual creations. iconic album covers have often been ‘covered’ again by other artists in works that reveal artistic relationships through intentional visual references and humorous citations. too bare, too brutal, too provocative. Musicians have frequently chosen images for their album covers that sparked scandals and made headlines for being censored. Album covers have also served as a platform for political statements as instruments of propaganda.
For this part of the exhibition, I was more interested in how landscape images were relevant and incorporated into these album covers. I have never considered landscape images from the perspective of music album covers. hence, it was a learning experience for me.
One of my favourite album covers in the exhibition that was non-landscape was the Jazz: Red Hot and Cool. The cover photograph was taken by Richard Avedon at a nightclub in San Francisco. This was done in partnership with the Helena Rubinstein cosmetics company. The ambient of the environment and the mood of the subjects were well captured. Bokeh from backlighting creates hairline over the head, and crisp frontal light captured the mood of both the subjects.
Richard Avedon created over 120 album sleeves over a six-decade period. He had a close relationship to music. to get a sense of that connection, just look up at his totemic book, Sixties, which features a solarised portrait of John Lennon from a famous series about the Beatles on the cover.
Galerie Springer Berlin
In First Choice II, Galerie Springer Berlin presented works and workgroups of a selection of their artists. Seven positions and different motifs and themes – but there is a visible correspondence within the works and groups of works shown. the main draw for me here was to see Edward Burtinsky’s works.
This was a chance for me to have a conversation with the gallery owner. Being a final year student, fretting about what to do with exhibition prints, the best thing I did was to interview the owners themselves of my queries. They were quite helpful in explaining to me from their perspective.
For these works of contemporary photographers shown in the gallery, how do they choose their image to be exhibited?
If we come across photographers works that impress us, we approach them or their agents and express our interest that we want to represent them/ their works to be represented by us. For their prints, contemorary photographers will have a specific working style. meaning, they choose how to exhibit their works. For example, Winfried Muthesius has his prints in Fine art print and acrylic face mount, and Edward Burtynsky’s Salt Pan on C-print, etc. we dont really need to say anything about it.
As for how they make their decisions, there is really no way to tell you how it is done, as this is all by experience!
How does the gallery represent the photographers? what do they have to do to get represented?
As I said, usually, we approach these photographers we like to work with. Most cases photographers get picked up by galleries that want to work with them or to exhibit their works. There are some cases where the photographers themselves approach us, but we will have to evaluate whether we want to represent them or not first.
For some works, obviously, the photographer is no longer around (deceased). In this case (of Saul Leiter) how does the gallery represent his images?
Yes, in the case of the late Saul Leiter, we get to decide how to frame his images. usually for deceased photographers, unlike contemporary photographers, we use a standard and simple way of framing, which is to use a wooden frame. But we will approach their organisation or family member responsible for holding their images for permission first. Sometimes we work with them on the best approach to exhibit these works.
There was a file with photographer images and the price tag of how much each piece would cost. Some costs a few thousand Euros, while some might cost over twenty thousand Euros. Why do some costs more than the others? How do you determine the value of the pieces of photographic works?
Yes, you are right. This is because some photographers are more famous than the others! The more established the photographer is, the higher the amount they can command!
Sometimes we work with new photographers and advise them on the best value for their works. for more established photographers, they determine the value of their own works. As they get more famous, they may increase the value of that price tag as well. They have a specific price tag fixed across all the galleries they work with. Experienced photographers may want to standardise the value of their works across all the galleries because if they don’t it may invite unnecessary competition among galleries and thus upset the buying system; for example, people may buy prints from a particular gallery because it is cheaper.
Who are your (the gallery) clients? Does anyone buy these prints at 20,000 + Euros??
Our clients are usually Art Buyers and Art collectors. Yes, these are rich people and you’d be surprised, even if the price is tagged at 20,000 Euros, people would still buy them because they understand the value of their works and they know how famous the photographer is.
What are the kind of print companies that the gallery or the photographers such as Edward Burtynsky work with?
Oh, there are many print companies around in Berlin! The print company Edward Burtynsky had his image printed that we worked with was run by these two people called Philipp Ruh and Hans Ruh: http://www.dasfoto.net
I was also quite inspired by the collection of books they have on their bookshelf. When I have enough money in the future, I’d like to invest in the collecting photographers’ books for reference. Subjects that were of my interest, at least. Over here they have quite a good selection of books, such as Anna Lehmann-Brauns’s Sun in an empty room, Saul Leiter’s Early Colour and Black & White, Aitor Ortiz.
For part two of my Berlin trip, click here .