Tag Archives: Photographers

Strangely Quiet or Quietly Strange: Wim Wenders’ Photography

Backyard, Moscow, 2007

Backyard, Moscow, 2007

There is a fascination in contemporary photography with overlooked objects and places – these are framed anew though the photographic lens and their imaginative or metaphoric possibilities explored. Wim Wenders (b.1945), better known as the Director of films like Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987), works in this vein, taking photographs of places that have been abandoned or are in a state of deterioration: run-down movie theatres in Arizona, boarded-up cafes in New Mexico, decaying backyards in Moscow. His work carries a sense of fragility and dislocation, the original purpose of the places or things often having been lost.

Ferris Wheel, 2008, Armenia

Ferris Wheel, 2008, Armenia

Ferris wheel (2008) is typical of the desolate isolation in Wenders’ photographs. The artist came across the abandoned Ferris Wheel in the middle of an empty field in Armenia. About how he discovers such places, the artist has said, “Everyone turns right, because that’s where it’s interesting. I turn left, where there is nothing. And sure enough, I soon find myself in front of my sort of place…[one] that is strangely quiet or quietly strange.”

Black Square, 2002

Black Square, 2002

In Black Square (2002, New Mexico), the hues of blue and red contrast with, even highlight more saliently, the decaying wall and tatty old advert, which poignantly includes the words Why Not Now. This photograph shows a deft painterly skill with colour and composition, as does Street Corner in Butte (2003, Montana), with its sharp vertical and horizontal lines and stark contrasts that render the shadows almost black. With the bleak isolation and uncanny feel here, this could be a scene from an Edward Hopper (1924-67) painting; and Wenders’ nod to Hopper is clear in films like The End of Violence (1997), in which one scene recreates the painting Nighthawks (1946).

Street Corner in Butte, 2003

Street Corner in Butte, 2003

Wenders’ photographic sensibility is akin to that in his films, and is similarly a meditation on memory, loss, time, nostalgia and emptiness, although he observes that photographs allow him to focus on something other than people: “I have sharpened my sense of place for things that are out of place”. And yet Wenders’ photographs still ‘speak’ – of “all those (people) who once were there, who lived there, who passed through, and who messed something up”.

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Filed under Arts, Environmentalism, imagination, Photography, Psychogeography, Uncategorized, Urban

Gillian Wearing: Disrupting the Surface of Everyday Life

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Since the 1960s, and particularly since the advent of conceptual art, photography has played a varied role in the fine arts. Photoconceptualism, for instance, uses the photograph as a document of artistic ideas and practice rather than as something that emphasizes the virtuoso craft of photography. It draws on the shoot-from-the-hip style of certain street photography, aiming for a non-art, ‘non-authored’ look; the ideas and acts that the photograph casually represents are more significant than the quality of the photograph itself.

Photoconceptualism can be used to disrupt the surface of everyday life, revealing its undercurrents. Gillian Wearing’s Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1990s), is an example of this. Standing in a busy area of South London, Wearing stopped passers-by and asked them to write down what was on their mind on white sheets of cards. With their permission, she then photographed them holding their words. Wearing has written that this collaboration ‘interrupts the logic of photo-documentary and snapshot photography by the subjects’ clear collusion and engineering of their own representation.’ A broad cross-section of people participated, so the series offered a social and historical document. It referred to the economic decline in Britain in the early 1990s, one individual holding up a sheet saying, ‘Will Britain get through this recession?’ Most of the signs revealed intimate thoughts or personal convictions, though. A tattooed man held up a sign,’ I have been certified as mildly insane’, while a smartly dressed man with an ostensibly self-possessed expression had a sheet saying, ‘I’m desperate’, and a policeman held up, ‘Help’. These photographs form part of Wearing’s broader interest in the interface of public image and personal identity, and demonstrate how it is through artistic strategies and interventions, rather than through the artistry of photography, that the depths of ordinary existence can be explored.

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Filed under Art, Arts, Photography, Uncategorized