16 September 2011

Struth at the Whitechapel

The photographs of Thomas Struth (at the Whitechapel gallery recently) puzzled me - how were they made; were they digitally altered; and - why these subjects?

Fortunately, the accompanying film was revelatory. He uses large plate cameras and doesn't use photoshop. Only rarely are the photos staged. He is looking at what has already been experienced and what should continue. For the portraits, it's important to frame the shot (to decide what's not wanted in the photograph) - and once he's chosen the frame, the subjects are free to arrange themselves within it, to be themselves. His one stipulation was that they look into the camera.

The "jungle photos", which he's called Pictures from Paradise, are about looking without interruption - these need a complicated graphic structure to keep you looking because you can't completely read it.

The photos of complicated scientific machines are taken with 10-minute exposures. We don't know the origins of our technology, he says. They have connotations of a crime scene - a documentation.

The photos are about the nature of looking, not about the objects themselves.

A virtual tour of exhibitions of his work 1977-2002 is here.

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