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Last but not least. Almost a postscript.

All month long I’ve had a tab on my screen, teasing and taunting me, about a show that helped set the tone for these last four weeks of blogging. I opened and saved the tab in late January as I was preparing to take on “Identity” as my topic here on Fotoblog. In my first post, it was this Haggerty Museum exhibition I was looking into—“I was browsing a museum site for information about an exhibition”—when I was happily and productively distracted by Shilpa Gupta’s flapboard work 24:00:01.

When I returned to the tab I rediscovered what I’d left open for viewing later—the Flickr album compiled from the Haggerty’s 2011 The Truth is Not in the Mirror: Photography and a Constructed Identity. I have to admit, this was a provocative phrase and a fine thematic exhibition, closely linked to my thoughts for HC Fotoblog February. Perhaps too closely; I might have spent the whole month addressing it, and the work in the show. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but my wandering eye got the better of me.

I was fortunate to have Googled it up in January. I exchanged an email or two with the show’s curator, Walter Mason, who is now the Director of the Sheldon Museum of Art at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He wrote that the show arose from an accumulation of meetings with “young photographers who were asking questions about truth, or constructing truths.” Wally found himself matching these young questioners with older artists who had clearly shared concerns. So, it was an exemplary line-up: Tina Barney, Claire Beckett, Valérie Belin, Dawoud Bey, Jesse Burke, Kelli Connell, Michael Corridore, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Rineke Dijkstra, Jason Florio, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Andy Freeberg, Lee Friedlander, David Hockney, Nikki S. Lee, Graham Miller, Martin Parr, Thomas Ruff, Scott Schuman (aka “The Sartorialist”), Alec Soth, Will Steacy, Larry Sultan, and Mickalene Thomas.

Please see the exhibition catalogue PDF here, because I would need another month to go through all of these artists. Their truths are entirely relevant to my musings, and I am glad Wally and I overlapped on Nikki S. Lee; as I noted earlier, I think her work is brilliantly conceived around the challenge of both recognizing and articulating identity in images. There are several artists on Wally’s checklist I would have gladly considered (even did consider, in passing) during my IQ month, and even a few I didn’t know before. In my opinion, these identity-interrogating works are essential to knowing where I end and you begin. The Cs, to my B and the artists’ As.

The sun has set in Ostfildern. This is where my monologue ends, and Fotoblog March begins. Danke sehr, Hatje Cantz. Auf Wiedersehen!

George Slade

p.s. And as a real postscript, here are six images that reflect my identity from a period of time, roughly four years ago. Since I made them and know the back stories, the IQ of these half-dozen images is very high. In Johari window terms, though, they are more façade than arena. And I’d guess there’s some blind spot and completely unknown in there as well. Much more musing to be done. Tschüss.

P1000034 P1000053 P1000078 P1000126 P1000196 P1000235

Triangulating identity.

It seems to me that both the artist and the person viewing the artist’s work have responsibilities when it comes to the image of identity. Both parties have to claim the ground they stand on, what they bring to the viewing process. To judge an artist’s work as somehow tied to identity, we need an affirmative statement from the artist to this extent. Otherwise, how are we to differentiate between identity-centric work and other person-focussed imagery in modes such as metaphoric portraiture (e.g. Sarah Jones), anonymous figure studies of people in public (Beat Streuli), or complex politico-historical self-imaging that relies more on stereotype than identity (Yinka Shonibare, MBE). You can probably suggest your own favorite counter-identity examples and modes; it seems a simpler matter to find work that is not about identity, that seems to veer away from it, than it is to assign the label with confidence.

Subjectivity has an enormous amount to do with a work’s “Identity Quotient.” How can it not?

I see three points that may help diagram this notion. The artist, A, and the audience, B. A and B exist on a line. The distance between A and B is never clearly delineated. The artist’s work in question—call it C—is a third point. C can be very close to A, very close to B (on a direct line between them, in fact), or far away from both artist and audience. But these three points will always, as geometry tells us, signify a two-dimensional plane. I think the plane reflects the commonality of being human, and the fact that identity must derive from what we perceive as distinctive about other humans on the spectrum. We are not being asked to recognize the identity of a frog, for instance, or an extraterrestrial. For the moment, though, I am more interested in the triangle. The proximity of C to either A or B indicates knowledge, insight, comfort, familiarity, or likeness extant in the work of identity. Point B in this identity configuration is highly mobile. The artist and the work, A and C, have a fairly fixed relationship to each other; the former typically has a grasp on the piece’s IQ, and knows whether that IQ derives from his or her personal sense of identity, or from a more distanced, yet still tangible mission of identity.

But when B sees C, funny things may happen to what A saw and put in C. Unless the artist knows exactly who will be seeing the work, the IQ may wander all over the place as B situates him- or herself with relation to what they read in the work. The net effect may be that the viewer identifies with the crafted identity, is repulsed by it, or remains entirely nonplussed.

I’m running short on time. It’s early on February 28 here in the Eastern time zone of the United States, but the month is in its last twelve hours in Ostfildern and Berlin. There are artists who have successfully fashioned images that describe identity without much in the way of supporting words. I think of Nikki Lee as someone who has consistently defined the challenge of identity. Wing Young Huie, a friend of mine from Minnesota, uses the notion of ethnocentrism freely in his photographic projects, and that focus allows a very clear stream of identity to flow through his images. In some circumstances Wing has utilized the hand-held chalkboard message device, which I first saw in images by Martin Weber. Weber asked his participants to write a dream on the slate, while Wing has requested other comments, drawing out succinct capsules of identity. Following the participant hand-written line, Jim Goldberg’s seminal Rich and Poor project offers tantalizing windows into the identities of people regarding themselves in Goldberg’s portraits.

And, somewhat parallel to Lee’s identity-transference project but more personal, Eufália C Paz creates a body of work in which she inhabits a floating, spectral version of her father, exploring spaces that he inhabited without her. Points A and C are overlaid in this work.

And so many more. Always more.


Nikki S. Lee

Wing Young Huie

Jim Goldberg

Martin Weber

Eufália C Paz

Taking stock.

Time is running out on this guest blogger’s shift at the helm of the good ship H. C. Fotoblog. If you are like me, you want to survey the work accomplished, address a missing point or two, and tie the ends together. All the while murmuring to yourself about how quickly the month has passed (well, it was February, the shortest month, after all), and regretting that you wrote less than you had set out to write.

Here’s where I started — February 3

I attempt to align my guest blogger bio with the artwork that was central to my theme — February 4

I chew on an especially meaty bit and suggested a window diagram — February 12

I finally mention a bunch of artists and books — February 18

I offer two more substantial references — February 19 I and February 19 II

Hmm. How much can I tackle in three days? I’m wishing this was a Leap Year.

Describing identity.

In search of Switzerland: Igor Ponti explores the Confoederatio Helvetica
The Swiss cross comes to mind, the Swiss army knife, the Alps, cheese of course, or perhaps fine chocolate: but just what is typically Swiss? What characterizes the country and its people, and connects the various regions despite their different languages? These questions led Swiss photographer Igor Ponti (*1981), who focuses on traditional and emerging identities, on a cross-canton journey—with the odd detour. He discovers expressive visual Helvetisisms and, in part in a mocking or affectionate way, points out distinctions between the cantons that nevertheless connect them in terms of culture and territory: freeways cut through picturesque landscapes, a massively carved William Tell stands by the wayside, wurst stands sell cervelat or fried sausage, a charming, old wooden house causes one to feel nostalgic, garden gnomes wear red and white, concrete antitank barriers protect the endangered idyll.


The report.

Because it is a descriptive medium, photography is not innately suited to ascertain identity. The photographer must construct it, then use the medium to collect the previsualized proofs. Do Igor Ponti’s images conform to everyone’s notions of what is “Swiss”? How trustworthy is this reporter?

The cover image notwithstanding, a glance through the sample pages reveals more natural and built landscape than people. Can environment determine a culture’s identity? My sense is that physical surroundings, photographed, accumulate evidence toward a metaphoric summation. What one does, and where one does it, are important markers of a collective identity. The necessity of an edit, however, brings subjectivity into play. The edit starts with what gets left out of the photographs, which is always a lot. The distillation of identity continues from there, until one has, as in this case, 59 illustrations arguing the case for a Swiss identity. Each image in this published report carries a lot of symbolic weight.

If we recall the flapboard’s implied message—where do I end and you begin—the cover of Ponti’s book points out the space of this transition, although the camera and its operator have insinuated themselves between the well-sweatered gentleman depicted and us, the viewers of the image. Thus, the transition has two stages; where I end and Ponti begins, and where Ponti ends and his subject—the man or the country—begins. The photographic image serves as a conduit for identity.

Find out for yourself.

If you are in Modena, Italy this evening at 21.00, you can meet the artist in person when he presents his book at the Metronom Galley (in collaboration with Yet Magazine). I wish I could be there; let me know if he seems reputable. Ask him if he knows any other photographers who have captured “Swiss-ness,” for better or worse. (For more information, link.)


Where do I end?

Glancing back at Shilpa Gupta’s message board, the idea of my limits, the image of “I” which may stand as the identity of “me,” assumes new significance. The mirror, the camera, and various means of image transmission, including books, social media, even those old analog objects known as prints. allow us to project versions of our self-conscious selves out into space and time, practically without limit. But at a certain point one loses control. Where do I end? Where do the many possible interpretations of “I” end? It depends on who does the disseminating, what the photograph purports to show, and the intention of the image-maker. Is it a mobile phone image of one’s reflection in a bathroom mirror or of one’s mugging face captured from arm’s length? Or is it a more sophisticated image of self?

I think of visual artists like John Coplans, Geneviève Cadieux, Ann Mandelbaum, Suzy Lake, and others dating back to Helmar Lerski, using intimately close views of bodies, their own and others’, as material to upset and disguise identity. Their images reveal flesh and, for the most part, imply human presence, while simultaneously distancing us from the information we normally utilize to gain understanding of an individual. Shallow and selective focus, manipulated lighting, unusual camera angles that make the familiar unrecognizable, and even, in Lake’s case, the hyper-accentuation of certain physical details push identity into abstraction.

Cindy Sherman, Lucas Samaras, Pierre Molinier, Francesca Woodman, Bruce Charlesworth, Catherine Opie, Bastienne Schmidt, and innumerable other precedents exemplify another kind of identity disruption. Their work, largely self-portraying, strives to render self as projection of other—that is, the “I” in their images is symbolic, representing an identity apart from the artist’s own “I”. In Johari window terms, these artists operate in a space along the continuum of arena and façade.

Photography allows an infinite number of “I” works. Befitting the medium these are precise and accurate. They may also mystifyingly narrow or misleadingly render a human figure as an image incapable of being identified as anything but an artifact of a creative process. Either of these modes may generate work residing on a continuum of “identity” art; if artists choose not to voice their intentions, viewers must distinguish between play-acting tendencies and more earnest socio-political energies, being careful not to jump to conclusions about message.


Geneviève Cadieux

Bruce Charlesworth

John Coplans

Suzy Lake

Helmar Lerski

Ann Mandelbaum

Pierre Molinier

Catherine Opie

Lucas Samaras

Bastienne Schmidt

Cindy Sherman

Francesca Woodman


The window or the mirror.

I’d like to introduce a concept here that may help frame the idea of identity and photography. The dialectic of window or mirror is well-established in photographic studies. Rectangular portals define photographic space. Viewfinders, negatives, screens, prints—all of them united by the four 90-degree angles enclosing them and defining their significant space. As far as reflection or transparency, the medium’s dual origins endorse consideration as either windows—Talbot’s process being one in which light passes through a matrix in order to inscribe its traces on a receiving surface—or mirrors, Daguerre’s light-sensitized, keenly polished silver surface famously regarded as “the mirror with a memory” and inscribed in photographic literature by Richard Rudisill’s 1971 book, Mirror Image: The Influence of the Daguerreotype on American Society.

The late, eminent scholar and curator John Szarkowski formulated an influential thesis and exhibition around the notion of photographic transparency and reflection. His Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960 (exhibition and catalogue produced by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1978) proposed that photographs could be read and understood as either perspectives on the world or as extensions of their maker’s self-conception. This is the argument in brief, summarized and over-simplified for the sake of readers who can and should delve into Szarkowski’s proposition in greater length at another time. But his question about shape and function, addressing “conceptions of what a photograph is” (Mirrors and Windows, p. 25) as a marker of time, space, and intention, hovers around us now.

I would need to do some careful reading of Szarkowski to ascertain his position on photography’s relationship to identity. Although he assigned the “mirror” label to works containing an abundance of information about the artist’s intentions, I sense he would have hesitated to admit that those works functioned as signs of identity. What, after all, can we reasonably accept as a truth about an individual as established through their output of visual art? Is every photograph a self-portrait, or are some more precisely focussed on a mission of identifying someone or something entirely apart from the image-maker?

My interest here alights on a model derived from communications theory known as the Johari window. It derives its figurative name from the straightforward, four-paned way it appears as a diagram.

From www.wochikochi.jp

“The Johari window is a technique created in 1955 by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft (1916–2014) and Harrington Ingham (1914–1995), used to help people better understand their relationship with self and others. It is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings as a heuristic exercise.”

Wikipedia’s entry, used as the caption, refers to the contexts in which I have encountered this model. (I also vaguely recall its use during orientation for a new school I entered in eighth grade, an application that seems oddly groovy as I reflect on it now.) The “open self” is sometimes referred to as the arena, in which nothing about oneself is hidden. The quadrant below that, in which parts of oneself are consciously undisclosed, is analogous to a façade. Through improved communications, the window’s desireable upper left frame can grow in two directions to minimize the lower right quadrant, that wild, frightful, unquantifiable terra incognita of the unknown self. The arena quadrant may be expanded downward with more disclosure; more feedback about one’s blind spots can help an individual expand the arena outward to the right.

Photography addresses what is seen. The visible is just a fraction of what characterizes an individual, though it is always present and always conveying information. What one chooses to hide behind, expressed in one’s appearance, may also reflect a blind spot one has about an element one can’t eliminate. Overcompensating to hide something may have the effect of drawing more attention to the imagined defect. That element suggests itself, to me at least, as an important part of one’s identity. How do people recognize you, no matter what disguises or costumes you are wearing? I think humans have an inbred system that combines facial recognition software with extra-sensory perception.

Here is where photography begins to flesh out its relationship to identity. Because photographs are made by people with their own communication issues, what they manifest in symbolic terms can be traced back to existing and willed openness on one hand, response to feedback on another, and to forces beyond knowing and beyond control. Photography must be made to serve the idea of identity, because it is not inherently capable of explaining itself symbolically. What I mean by this is that photography is mute and incapable of intention. Cameras may be astonishingly perceptive and increasingly able to override the poor choices of their human operators, but they are as yet unable to utilize unconscious motivations, unspoken passions, invisible prejudices, or emotional dysfunction in any mechanical sense. Context becomes the signifier.

Next: The Mirror and Identity.


A Johari window exercise

Rudisill – Mirror Image

Szarkowski – Mirrors and Windows

Farrah Karapetian’s good essay, “Reframing Mirrors and Windows” in issue 7 of The Highlights



Take me, for instance.

When I wrote my bio for this blog, I was fashioning an image of my identity. I can correlate that image to 24:00:01.


Photography grabbed hold of George Slade when he was a teenager. Miraculously, courtesy of his father, a roll of exposed 35mm film left by the front door reappeared a day or so later as an envelope of prints. Freshman year at Yale found him in the darkroom more than the library. Despite his preoccupation, and detours into la vie photographique in Colorado and New York City, he earned his BA in American Studies. The earliest acquisitions in his photobook collection date from this early 1980s period. His mentors were Alan Trachtenberg, Ben Lifson, and Tod Papageorge; his inspirations were John Szarkowski and Garry Winogrand.

The boundaries of my profile/identity became clear as I envisioned myself “taken over” by the mystery of photography. Especially in the dark of darkrooms, under the thrall of a great, growing passion for photography, knowing my emotional, spiritual, psychological, or physical limits was an imprecise awareness at best. Thirty or so years later, I want to fill in blanks about myself then, but find those gaps pretty much unfillable. To reconcile my ambiguous identity I dangle recognizable names that might help readers understand the intellectual landscape and the sphere of influences I encountered in the early 1980s. (I neglected to mention Rosalind Krauss, Sally Stein, Betsy Blackmar, Amy Kaplan, and various other American Studies professors who showed me the way.)


Slade returned to his Minnesota roots in the early 1990s. He also began an involvement with what became the Minnesota Center for Photography (MCP); he served as a freelance editor, curator, writer, and consultant for the organization until 2003, when he became MCP’s artistic director. From 1998 to 2008 he led the McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowships for Photographers Program. Between 1995 and 2015 he has worked with many organizations, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, FORECAST Public Artworks, the Givens Foundation for African American Literature, and M&E Small Engine Repair in Traverse City, Michigan.

I strive to claim my bona fides. Do I carve a place in the world that you can respect? Have I done enough to warrant your attention? Is my path interesting enough? I note one of the odd jobs I have had in the last twelve months since moving to Michigan. It adds a bit of mystery, don’t you think?


Throughout his career he has provided organizations and individuals with counsel and programmatic input related to photographic matters. He has written reviews for photo-eye books for a decade, profiles for Black & White magazine, and essays for monographs by a range of contemporary photographers including Susan Burnstine, Lydia Panas, Tom Arndt, Todd Deutsch, Stuart Klipper, Stuart Rome, Priya Kambli, and Karen Klein. He is an experienced panelist, lecturer, and portfolio reviewer; he also speaks and writes on leadership in the visual arts, which was the focus of his MA in Organizational Leadership at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

You begin to understand me in context, and I continue to build this construction carrying my name. My challenge to you now, in the bio, is to figure out what landscape these names define, as they may be less recognizable than the names cited earlier.


His blog is titled re:photographica. You may also find him on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter. He posts on Instagram as @rephotographica and @photographytweets. In real life, he drifts around the Great Lakes and takes pictures out of his car windows.

These things are, for the most part, true. I am discoverable in those virtual worlds. Because I spend a fair amount of time in cars, I do take pictures out of car windows, though not all pictures I take are made that way. You may begin to form a new understanding of my writings if you follow the trails of self-description I’ve left in the ground cover of this biography. But how trustworthy is this image? What can you legitimately discern from the report of myself I have given? What have I left out of the biographical frame, and how would it impact your vision of my identity?

Let’s move on. I hear the flapboard clacking.

Seeking the image limits of identity

Well, that’s quite a ponderous title for my first entry on fotoblog. But I might as well set a lofty goal and work toward it. Maybe by the end of February we will all have learned something.

Shilpa Gupta, 24:00:01
30-minute loop on motion flapboard
70 x 10 x 11 in | 177 x 25 x 28 cm

I was browsing a museum site for information about an exhibition, and found this work by an artist I’d not heard of before. Shilpa Gupta’s 2012 work 24:00:01 utilizes a signage system familiar to anyone who has waited in a terminal or station for transportation. (Or seen an ad for Kayak that utilizes the trope.) I did not know that the device, usually with several tiers of these horizontal arrays, was called a flapboard, but that is exactly what it does, flap quickly through letter and number sequences to spell out data defining destinations and journeys. Wonderfully inefficient, the flapboard scans its sequential, linear memory in search of the right letter or number. The wheel only goes one direction. Even if the desired letter is one degree back, the wheel spins 359 degrees around to get to it, making a Rolodex seem like a Microsoft Access database in comparison. I suspect that both devices are on the verge of complete extinction.

The point is, I like this machine’s awkward industry. It gets the job done. You might fill in missing information before it does, a la Wheel of Fortune (“I’d like to buy a vowel, please.”), but the letters will soon catch up and confirm your interpolation. In 24:00:01, completing the message appearing on Gupta’s flapboard connects to experience and intuition; you must be careful, as not all of her messages are predictable. Some are very specific to her experiences in the world. (The complete text cycle can be read at her website, or here.)

Most of all, I like how it makes me work. I like how its fleeting messages redound to the complexity of identity. As soon as you receive one message, another begins to appear. My own experience of identity seems related to this, a flexible self-conception that ebbs and flows with different types of input. I suffer from permeable boundaries; others may have more rigid exclusion zones than I do. But moment to moment, my image of identity varies from yours. This give and take seems like something worth exploring in future posts. And the flow of one message after another, leading us with varying degrees of acuity, finds a highly useful corollary in the form of books. One perspective after another, complementing, contradicting, and redefining each other, page by page and artist by artist.

Sounds like a good topic to me.


Postscript: I probably owe it to myself to go see 24:00:01, which is on display until May 17 in the exhibition States of Uncertainty, curated by Emilia Layden for the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Somewhere between one of my homes and the other.

Interaktion 4: Filmklassiker vs. Fantasie

Standbild aus dem Film, fotografiert von Arthur Evans.  David Hemmings in Blow Up (Regie Michelangelo Antonioni), 1966. BFI Stills ©Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment C. - A Warner Bros Entertainment Company

Foto: Arthur Evans.
David Hemmings in Blow Up (Regie Michelangelo Antonioni), 1966. BFI Stills ©Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment C. – A Warner Bros Entertainment Company


Standbild aus dem Film, fotografiert von Arthur Evans.  David Hemmings in Blow Up (Regie Michelangelo Antonioni), 1966. BFI Stills ©Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment C. - A Warner Bros Entertainment Company

Foto: Arthur Evans.
David Hemmings in Blow Up (Regie Michelangelo Antonioni), 1966. BFI Stills ©Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment C. – A Warner Bros Entertainment Company


Twittereintrag von Daria Gorelova. Der Text zitiert den Trailer zu "Blow-Up".

Twittereintrag von Daria Gorelova. Der Text zitiert den Trailer zu “Blow-Up”.

„Sometimes reality is the strangest fantasy of all…“ – die rauchige Stimme wirbt für einen Film, der in das verrückte London von heute eintaucht, die Wirren der Liebe, das Straucheln der Sehnsucht. Die Yardbirds rocken „Stroll On“ dazu, der Trailer wirbt für „Blow-Up“, Michelangelo Antonionis „first english language film“, starring Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings and Sarah Miles. Das knackige Statement „At love without meaning. At murder without guilt. At the dazzle and madness of youth today. Antonioni’s camera never flinches.“, es findet sich zuhauf im Internet, wird wiedergegeben als geheime Losung. Wie das London der Sechziger war, diese sogenannten Swinging Sixties, das Schlendern über die Carnaby Street, der immer kürzer werdende Minirock, die Kellerkonzerte, das Aufbäumen gegen das Establishment – wir kennen das aus Filmen, aus Büchern, vielleicht aus Erzählungen. Wie es sich wirklich angefühlt hat, sich zu jener Zeit die Haare hochzutoupieren, bei einem Konzert der Beatles dabeizusein, in die Welt des Pop einzutauchen – keine Ahnung. Ich schaue mir den Trailer an, ein kurzer, hart geschnittener Bilderclip aus Einzelfotos, 0:58 min lang, 62.662 Aufrufe bei YouTube, ich schaue mir den Film an, 111 Minuten, ausgezeichnet 1967 in Cannes mit dem Hauptpreis, der Goldenen Palme, ich schaue mir die Ausstellung bei C/O Berlin an, vormals Wien, Albertina, und Fotomuseum, Winterthur, ich blättere in der Publikation, „Blow-Up. Antonionis Filmklassiker und die Fotografie“, erschienen letztes Jahr bei Hatje Cantz – die Ebenen überlappen sich, lösen sich auf.

Foto: Tazio Secchiaroli. David Hemmings in Blow Up (Regie Michelangelo Antonioni), 1966. BFI Stills ©Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment C. - A Warner Bros Entertainment Company

Foto: Tazio Secchiaroli. David Hemmings in Blow Up (Regie Michelangelo Antonioni), 1966. BFI Stills ©Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH/Turner Entertainment C. – A Warner Bros Entertainment Company

Büchertisch bei C|O Berlin. Der Katalog zur Ausstellung ist im Mai 2014 bei Hatje Cantz erschienen: 280 Seiten, 35 Euro. Weitere Publikationen zum Thema: "Veruschka. Mein Leben" (Dumont, 2011), "Michelangelo Antonioni. Wege in die filmische Moderne" (Wilhelm Fink, 2012), "Swinging London. Kunst und Kultur in der Weltstadt" (dtv, 2012), "Michelangelo Antonioni. Chronik einer Liebe, die es nie gab: Erzählungen" (Wagenbach, 2012), "Antonioni’s Blow-Up" (Steidl, 2010).

Büchertisch bei C|O Berlin. Der Katalog zur Ausstellung ist im Mai 2014 bei Hatje Cantz erschienen: 280 Seiten, 35 Euro. Weitere Publikationen zum Thema: “Veruschka. Mein Leben” (Dumont, 2011), “Michelangelo Antonioni. Wege in die filmische Moderne” (Wilhelm Fink, 2012), “Swinging London. Kunst und Kultur in der Weltstadt” (dtv, 2012), “Michelangelo Antonioni. Chronik einer Liebe, die es nie gab: Erzählungen” (Wagenbach, 2012), “Antonioni’s Blow-Up” (Steidl, 2010).

Vor dem Amerikahaus, 31. Januar 2015. ©Nadine Barth

Vor dem Amerikahaus, 31. Januar 2015. ©Nadine Barth

Seit die Modefotografie laufen lernte, läuft sie dem Zeitgeist voraus. Ein halbes Jahr, bevor die Kollektion im Laden hängt, muss sie in Szene gesetzt werden, der Fotograf, ein Stylist im Dazwischen, nach dem Designer, vor dem Käufer, und das Magazin feiert einen kurzen Höhepunkt im Moment des Drucks. Und schon wenn die Publikation einen Tag alt ist, wird sie schleichend zu Altpapier. Sie verliert an Farbe, sie vergilbt. Frisch dagegen die Sets in „Blow-Up“, das Lila, das Pink, die Streifen der Klamotten, die blauen Augen des Protagonisten. In dem Fragebogen, den Antonioni als Vorrecherche zu seinem Film über die Persönlichkeit des Fotografen anlegte, kommt die Frage vor: „Are fashion photographers requested to stress the sexual angle or merely to concentrate on the clothes?“ Im Film hockt der Fotograf mit dem Filmnamen Thomas (gespielt von David Hemmings) über Veruschka, die sich selbst spielt, Vera Gräfin von Lehndorff, kaum zwei Sätze spricht sie im Film, nur, dass sie gleich nach Paris müsse, später, auf einer Party, dass sie in Paris sei, dabei spielt der Film in London. Das Hocken, oft konnotiert als quasi sexueller Akt, es ist eine neue Art des Fotografierens, das Statische hat sich aufgelöst, die steife Inszenierung mit exakt gesetztem Licht, die Mode ist in den 1960er Jahren zum Bewegtbild geworden, swingt mit der Musik, der Jugend, dem Gefühl. David Bailey, Vorbild für die Rolle des Fotografen im Film, geboren 1938, Autodidakt, Air Force Soldat, langjähriger Zulieferer der Vogue, Chronist der Beat-Generation, berühmt für seine Fotos der Rolling Stones oder Marianne Faithful, ich hoffe, er war nicht so ein Chauvinist wie die Filmfigur, aber vielleicht war das Rollenverständnis auch ein anderes zu der Zeit.

David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan, 1965. Foto: Terry O’Neill. Couresy Philippe Garner

David Bailey photographing Moyra Swan, 1965. Foto: Terry O’Neill. Courtesy Philippe Garner

Grace and Telma, Italienische Vogue, 1966, fotografiert von Eric Swayne. Courtesy Tom Swayne.

Grace and Telma, Italienische Vogue, 1966, fotografiert von Eric Swayne. Courtesy Tom Swayne.

Installationsansicht der Ausstellung "Blow Up" bei C|O Berlin mit Modefotografien aus den 1960ern.

Installationsansicht der Ausstellung “Blow Up” bei C|O Berlin mit Modefotografien aus den 1960ern.

Dass es im Film auch um die philosophische Frage geht, ob ein Foto Abbild der Wirklichkeit sein kann und wie sich bei der Vergrößerung, Blow-Up, die Wirklichkeit auflösen kann, in immer gröbere Pixel, bis nur noch Punkte, Muster, existieren, auf dem Papier, dem Abzug, der dann auch verschwindet, war es ein Einbruch oder gab es sie selbst nie – es spielt keine Rolle. Der Bezug zwischen der Realität der Sechziger, die es vielleicht auch nur so im Film gibt und dem Heute, das wir uns einbilden, ist spannender. Die Ausstellungsbesucher bei C/O Berlin verlieren sich in den immer wieder aufflackernden Szenen im Park, im Studio, auf der Bühne. Jeff Beck von den Yardbirds zertrümmert seine Gitarre – und imitiert damit The Who. Die Models sollen die Augen schließen, bis der Fotograf wiederkommt, wenn du die Augen schließt, siehst du was dir gehört, sagt man im Scherz und meint damit: nichts. Als er wiederkommt, sind die Models noch da, sie haben ihre Augen aber wieder geöffnet, das sagt die Assistentin, aber die Models sieht man nicht, sie sind nicht existent. Da die Ausstellung nicht nur die Modefotografie der Zeit in Bezug zum Film setzt, sondern auch dem Einfluss nachspürt, den der Film auf die Jahre und Jahrzehnte danach hat, findet sich selbst eine Landschaftsaufnahme aus dem Jahr 2006 darunter, von Alicja Kwade, es ist der Park, in dem der Fotograf den vermeintlichen Mord fotografiert und in dem er später einem imaginären Tennisspiel beiwohnt. Am Ende wirft er den Ball, den es nicht gibt, zurück ins Spiel, und das TockTock des Balls ist auf dem Boden zu hören und schließt den Kreis zum Anfang des Films, in dem das Tennisspiel real war – wenn es denn stattfand. Und wenn ich mich in dem Plakat des Films fotografiere, dem Abbild ein weiteres Abbild hinzufüge, dem Film eine weitere Fußnote, ein weiteres Glied an der endlosen Signifikantenkette – was bleibt dann vom Sein? Die Sehnsucht nach Authentizität. Als Idee.

Installationsansicht der Ausstellung "Blow-Up" bei C|O Berlin mit der Schlüsselszene im Park. ©Nadine Barth

Installationsansicht der Ausstellung “Blow-Up” bei C|O Berlin mit der Schlüsselszene im Park.
©Nadine Barth

Installationsansicht bei C|O Berlin. Auf zwei Videoscreens laufen Szenen aus dem Film "Blow-Up". ©Nadine Barth

Installationsansicht bei C|O Berlin. Auf zwei Videoscreens laufen Szenen aus dem Film “Blow-Up”.
©Nadine Barth

Installationsansicht der Ausstellung bei C|O Berlin. Eine Filmszene aus "Blow-Up" spiegelt sich in der Fotografie von Alicja Kwade mit dem Titel "Maryon Park" von 2006. ©Nadine Barth

Installationsansicht der Ausstellung bei C|O Berlin. Eine Filmszene aus “Blow-Up” spiegelt sich in der Fotografie von Alicja Kwade mit dem Titel “Maryon Park” von 2006.
©Nadine Barth

Im Spiegel des Filmplakates. ©Nadine Barth

Im Spiegel des Filmplakates. ©Nadine Barth