Thursday, 9 January 2014

A New Objectivity - S | 2 Gallery

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Wassertürme (Water Towers), 1973
A New Objectivity:The Düsseldorf School of Photography is at S | 2 Gallery until 17 January 2014.
I am a bit late with this - I had meant to highlight it back in December, but somehow life got in the way. Then I stumbled across an article entitled Has the Düsseldorf School killed photography? by Grant Scott and was reminded to do so.
The Düsseldorf School refers to a group of photographers associated with, what was, the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the teaching of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Typically, they make large-scale work in a deadpan documentary style and include, amongst others, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, Axel Hütte and  Thomas Struth. (I loved Struth's show at the Whitechapel back in 2011 - see below.)
Grant's polemic is not so much aimed at the heroes (my word, not his!) of the School itself but at what he sees as their baleful influence upon the rising generation of photographers - or, at least, the lazy ones! Grant allows that the original disciples of the Düsseldorf School [brought] new ways of seeing but he seems to have little time for the Bechers, whose teaching was so influential. He writes: 
the Bechers photographed industrial landscapes and architecture in stark, graphic black and white, documenting Germany’s industrial past of water towers, mining sites and coal bunkers. Their work was cold, clinical, emotionless and documentary, ... [p]hotography without opinion, without comment or personality.
I love their work!
I am not in a position to argue with Grant about the degree of Düsseldorfian influence on young photographers, but I suspect we see photography (and the world) with different eyes and taste. Grant wants photography with more personality, expression and emotion - I want less!
Whatever else might be said about it, the work in this show will comprise big images, by big names which will, undoubedly sell for big money. (S | 2 belongs to Sotheby's.) Gursky, after all did set an auction record back in 2011 when his fabulous Rhine II sold for a staggering $4,338,500 (see below).

Andreas Gursky, Singapore Börse, 1996
Thomas Struth, Calle Sacchere, 1990
Thomas Struth, Iglesia de San Francisco, Lima Peru, 2003
Thomas Struth, Seamless Tube Production, Tenaris Siderca, Campana, Buenos Aires, 2009
Candida Höfer, Iglesia de Saõ Francisco de Assis Salvador de Bahia I, 2005
Candida Höfer, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, Amsterdam II, 2003
Thomas Ruff, Nudes OBE 08, 2001
Axel Hütte, Bussaco, 1999

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