vrijdag 14 december 2018

Views & Reviews Unbewusste Orte - Unconscious Places The Becher Approach Thomas Struth Photography

Unbewusste Orte - Unconscious Places
Bern: Kunsthalle Bern, 1987. First edition. Paperback. Very Good. Tall paperbound quarto. 93 pp. Early monograph of Struth's photographs of European architecture and streetscapes with text in German and English by Ulrich Loock, Ingo Hartmann and Friedrich Meschede. Illustrated with both color and black and white photographs. Light toning to covers else a clean very good example in wide photo-illustrated bound wrappers with French flaps.

At the end of his year in New York, Struth resumed his studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf during the winter of 1978. He recalls that this was the moment when he made the conscious decision to be an artist and to embrace unequivocally this decision.

Through 1979, he continued to photograph the streets in Düsseldorf and also for the first time in other European cities including Cologne, Munich, Brussels, Charleroi and Paris. After the concentrated experience of working in different parts of New York City, the process of identifying locations which expressed most clearly the nature of the city became more precise. Struth now worked with greater precision and economy. He spent more time looking for the single location which could “summarise a city” and made comparatively few photographs in each city—no more than five in Charleroi, for example, or ten in Munich.

Towards the end of 1979 Struth travelled to Paris to visit Thomas Schütte, a fellow student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, who had a residency in Paris. Schütte suggested looking at the Beaugrenelle project in Paris, a huge urban development for mixed commercial and residential use with several distinctive high-rise towers built on the banks of the Seine in the 1970s.

The group of photographs Struth made at Beaugrenelle in 1979 and 1980 was his first work based on contemporary urban structures and reflected his interest in architecture and urban planning. In a sober and melancholy way, he traces what has become of the utopian city plans of early modernism. On this occasion, Struth photographed for the first time in both black-and-white and colour.

In 1980 Rüdiger Schöttle invited Struth to make an exhibition of the Beaugrenelle photographs at his gallery in Munich. The exhibition consisted of thirty-seven photographs, presented together with the architectural plan of the complex as well as the advertising brochures published by the developer. Struth recalls the exhibition as “quite a laconic presentation, perhaps a bit didactic but nonetheless not well understood.”

The ongoing project to investigate the differing nature of urban spaces in European cities was interrupted in the early 1980s by an obligatory period of civilian service where Struth ran a small print shop in a community centre in Düsseldorf. Following this hiatus, Struth resumed his work with a trip to Rome.

A selection of photographs of streets in Rome, Charleroi, Paris, Munich and Hamburg was presented under the title Bilder aus dem europäischen Lebensraum (Pictures from European Habitats) at his second exhibition at Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle in Munich in 1985. The photographs here were no longer presented in a grid but as individual pictures.

Upon seeing his exhibition at Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle in Munich in 1985, Ulrich Loock invited Struth to make a first major survey of his city pictures at the Kunsthalle Bern. The exhibition offered the first significant opportunity to orchestrate an experience of the work through a sequence of space, and in total comprised one hundred black-and-white and colour photographs. In the large central room at the Kunsthalle Bern, fourteen works which Struth considered to be “the most complete, the most emblematic, the ones which conveyed something more general about the cities they were made in— the pictures Loock and I called ‘the headlines’—were installed: Crosby Street, New York; Düsselstrasse, Düsseldorf; Rue St. Antoine, Paris. The rooms around were organised around bodies of work from different subjects: Beaugrenelle, Japan, individual buildings, etc.”

See also


Intermezzo Campo dei Fiori Rome 1984 Thomas Struth - Photographs 1978-2010 Photography

dinsdag 11 december 2018

The Best PhotoBooks of 2018 Sean O’Hagan The Guardian Photography

Chloe Dewe Mathews, Every winter, on the day of Epiphany. Photograph: Chloe Dewe Mathews

By Sean O’Hagan

It was a year marked by impressive debuts, many of which, intriguingly, featured black and white photography. Taking her cue from the films of Eric Rohmer, the young Swiss-born photographer Senta Simond impressed with Rayon Vert (Kominek), a series of cool, monochrome portraits of posed female subjects who also happen to be her friends. The results are both intimate and formally striking.

American photographer Raymond Meeks explored male intimacy and adolescent bonding in Halfstory Halflife (Chose Commune), which distils the work of several summers spent photographing American teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. The setting is a forbidding creek in the Catskill mountains into which the boys leap, testing themselves in a long-established rite of passage that Meeks renders both sensuous and mysterious.

There is a dreamlike quality, too, to Matthew Genitempo’s Jasper (Twin Palms), a meditation on self-enforced solitude made in America’s mid-south. Genitempo spent time in the Ozark mountains, gaining the trust of men who had retreated into the forests to live off-grid in often harsh conditions.

Over several months, he shot the messy interiors of their cars and the detritus therein – porn, guns, fast food

The disturbing images in Matthew Casteel’s acclaimed first book, American Interiors (Dewi Lewis), were made clandestinely while he worked as a valet park at a veterans’ hospital. Over several months, he shot the messy interiors of their cars and the detritus therein – porn, guns, fast food, overflowing ashtrays – can be read as a metaphor for their dislocated lives.

In Caspian: The Elements (Aperture/Peabody), British documentary photographer Chloe Dewe Matthews delves deep into the landscapes and people of the Caspian Sea. Using the region’s rich natural resources – oil, rock, uranium – she explores the religious traditions and communal practices, including bathing in crude oil, that endure in an area more often defined by its contested geopolitics.

Irish photographer Eamonn Doyle made a bold move away from street photography towards a kind of sculptural conceptualism with K, an elaborately designed, limited-edition photobook that comes with its own soundtrack in the form of a 10-inch vinyl record. It’s one for serious photography book collectors, as is TTP (Mack) by Hayahisa Tomiyasu, who obsessively photographed the daily goings-on around an outdoor ping-pong table from the window of his student apartment in Leipzig. The result is a small gem of human observation that deservedly won the 2017 Mack First Book Award.

For me, the best catalogue of 2018 was the eponymous Masahisa Fukase (Editions Xavier Barral), which accompanied the retrospective of his work at Foam, Amsterdam. A constantly surprising homage to the self-destructive genius of postwar Japanese photography, that ranges from his early proto-selfies to his elegiac series, Ravens. Fukase also features in Lena Fritsch’s Ravens & Red Lipstick: Japanese Photography Since 1945 (Thames & Hudson), an informative recent history of the country’s movements, mavericks and pioneering photobook makers. The best reissue of the year has to be

The Sweet Flypaper of Life (David Zwimmer), by Roy DeCarava with text by Langston Hughes, is a kind of poetic photo-novel about everyday life in Harlem, originally published in 1955. Groundbreaking on initial publication, it remains a beautifully realised fusion of words and images.

Closer to home, Photographs 1997-2017 (Mack) gathers two decades of work by the influential Northern Irish photographer, Hannah Starkey. Her signature is a kind of heightened everydayness that often approaches the cinematic – deftly choreographed portraits of women caught up in moments of reverie or intimately observed interaction. A subtext throughout is the way women are represented – and reduced – in the mainstream. Cumulatively, it adds up to a quietly forceful riposte to the male gaze that still dominates photographic representation.

Finally, two esteemed veterans of British documentary. Chris Killip collaborated with graphic design company Pony to produce four striking, zine-type publications of his early work. They include Skinningrove, a portrait of a fishing community on the north-east coast, and The Station, a 1980s anarcho-punk venue in Gateshead where mayhem and noise prevailed. All four are available in a signed and numbered limited edition. Be quick.

Altogether more sedate, though slightly strange in a quintessetially English way, is The Portraits (RRB Publishing), a long overdue acknowledgment of the work of John Myers, a master of quiet photography. In the 1970s, Myers shot ordinary people from the West Midlands, often in their homes. It makes for a compelling, almost anthropological study of another England that seems both familiar and oddly alien in its parochialism. Timely, then.

zondag 9 december 2018

Views & Reviews Berlin-Kreuzberg Stadtbilder Michael Schmidt Photography

Publica (1984)
Gravity’s Rainbow
Kolja Reichert remembers the late photographer Michael Schmidt and his pictures of a Berlin that most others overlooked

ohne Titel, aus der Serie Berlin Stadtbilder, 1976–77, Silbergelatinedruck; all images courtesy: © Stiftung für Fotografie und Medienkunst mit Archiv Michael Schmidt & Galerie Nordenhake Berlin / Stockholm

I’ve just taken Michael Schmidt’s book Berlin nach 1945 (Berlin After 1945, 2005) off the shelf. The book contains the photographs he took in 1980 in the neighbourhood between Mehringplatz and the Wall. Glancing up from its pages, I look out the window of my high-rise apartment onto the same neighbourhood, 34 years later. The photos in the book show the entrance to an underground garage; in the background, the vacant lot not yet occupied by Daniel Libeskind’s new Jewish Museum; the raised parking space across the road, empty except for a single car under a plastic cover; the facade of Anhalter Bahnhof, once Berlin’s largest railway terminus, a romantic ruin in a rubbish-strewn steppe; and only one picture of the Wall, taken through the doorway to a courtyard. Apart from this: vacant lots, firewalls, mud, puddles, a Citroen 2CV, an Opel Kadett. And no people. The poster on the wall to the right must originally have said ‘Auf geht’s’ (let’s go) until someone tore away the ‘Auf’, leaving a far less dynamic statement (akin to a questioning ‘hanging in there?’).

Berlin then was a city of bombsites and blockades, one of stumbling and stasis; the city that made Michael Schmidt’s oeuvre possible. For me, his friend, he was the great, awe-inspiring, incorruptible punk of German photography, who departed before his time on 24 May this year. On the way to the funeral, my neighbour, the photographer Tobias Zielony, boarded the train with a steaming cup from the much-praised new coffee bar at the southern end of Friedrichstrasse. Now it’s we, his young friends and colleagues, who live in the houses once used in Schmidt’s brutally austere photographs to expose the various gravities of German history.

ohne Titel, from the series EIN-HEIT, 1991–94, silver gelatin print

Somewhere in Schmidt’s archive there is a portrait of Gerhard Schröder, taken in Hanover in 1999 when Schröder was chancellor. I’ve never seen it, nor have many others, as Schmidt never published it. He once explained to me that another image – of an anonymous CEO on the back seat of a limousine from the EIN-HEIT series (UN-IT-Y, 1991–94), his pinched, staring face in half shadow – is a better image of power.

Schmidt could certainly have had it easier. Others became rich and famous by photographing things that everyone was already interested in, or by travelling the world to take the same picture over and over in different settings. Schmidt, though, broke the mould with each new series. In 1967, while Michael Ruetz was shooting iconic images of historic demonstrations and sit-ins, Schmidt was exploring Kreuzberg’s courtyards. And in 1989, when pictures of partying crowds on the Berlin Wall went around the world, he was taking photos of deserted squares in East German housing projects. These photographs were published in 2010 in the small book 89/90. Page 89: a photograph of a mountain of rubbish protruding above a fence. Page 90: the same picture again. And again on page 91. Fuck your magical reunification. Fuck your euphoria about the future.

Schmidt’s work is inscribed with an uncompromising resistance –precisely because it is entirely free of agitation, theatricality or drama. Because it plunges into formal conflicts where every statement is against resolution. Whereas photography is often still treated as a window onto the world, Schmidt showed that photographs can also be surfaces where the gaze rebounds off firewalls, vacant lots, window shutters. He showed that pictures can be repeated and ironized, like the lady with the triple chin in Schmidt’s chef d’oeuvre EIN -HEIT (published 1996) who reappears, mirrored, when one turns the page. Or that they can create irresolvable feedback loops of collective memory when they jump back and forth between overdetermination and a refusal to speak, again in EIN-HEIT: floral patterned wallpaper; plans for a concentration camp featuring a moiré effect; Adolf Eichmann in a hat; a tapestry with two medieval musicians; a murky grey picture of the sea. The void and its counterpart, the visual block, are the primary motifs in Schmidt’s photographs. His legacy lies in the suggestion of sequentiality that constantly sabotages itself and in representation that rebels against its own frame.

ohne Titel, from the series Berlin nach 45, 1980
silver gelatin print

In the series Waffenruhe (Ceasefire, 1985–87), dealing with the reality of the Berlin Wall, Schmidt developed an editing technique (the edit as excerpt and break) that relinquishes any claim to a sovereign overview, a technique he pursued further in EIN-HEIT, Frauen (Women, 1997–99, published 2000) and Lebensmittel (Food, 2006–10, published 2012). Published in 1987, Waffenruhe was the first time he fully exploited the potential of the book form, consistently taking an anti-narrative approach that deliberately shot itself in the foot. The volume has cinematic qualities, restricted view after restricted view: leftover tape between two tree trunks like the remains of a cordon or bandage; a bit of dirt on a pane of glass obscuring the view of a blurred street beyond; graffiti on a section of Wall that had been carelessly, indifferently painted over. The pictured subjects seem too big for the viewfinder. Too big, too close, impossible to get past. And when these enclosed scenes are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a human figure – a young punk in a sad pose – his face is blurred, the focus lying instead on his clasped hands. In this way, he shifted the impact from individual pictures into the gaps between them, causing the images to constantly call each other into question. Waffenruhe represents an exemplary juxta­position of the objective image and the subjective view, performing their contradictions rather than trying to resolve them in a specific sense, as he had done a decade earlier.

For an attempt at resolution from a subjective viewpoint, we can look to Schmidt’s first book published in 1973, a survey of Berlin’s Kreuzberg district (Berlin Kreuzberg). It contains empathetic portraits of artists and immigrant children, romantic courtyard scenes and architectural studies that recall the US photographer Paul Strand, such as Hochbahn, im Hintergrund Postscheckamt Berlin-West (Elevated railroad, West Berlin Postal Check Office in the background). (Strand’s books were the first purchased by a 20-year-old Schmidt in 1965, early on in his personal discovery of photography.) Five years after the Berlin Kreuzberg series, reportage’s claim to depict people, things and living conditions as objectively as possible led Schmidt in the opposite direction, towards a more clinical approach: people at home and at work, carefully lit, follow a section showing deserted streets in his book on another Berlin district (Berlin-Wedding, 1978). This book was the only time Schmidt came close to the school of Bernd and Hilla Becher, before abandoning such strict for­malism the same year, exemplified by the photos in his book Berlin. Stadtlandschaft und Menschen (Berlin. Cityscape and People).

Schmidt was an autodidact and, from an early age, did things his own way. In 1965, he joined an amateur photographic society to hone his technical skills but left soon after. ‘When they photographed rain’, he later explained in an interview, ‘it looked like glass beads. When I photographed rain, it looked like rain.’ In photography courses at adult education colleges in Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Schmidt soon switched from studying to teaching. Because there were few opportunities to exhibit photography at the time, he took it upon himself to show his series Das Alter (Age) in Möckernbrücke underground station in 1974 and Die berufstätige Frau (Working Women) at Kreuzberg Town Hall a year later. The same year, he became one of the first German photographers to exhibit in a contemporary art gallery. After visiting a Brassaï show at Rudolf Springer on Berlin’s Fasanenstrasse, he called the gallery to introduce himself. Springer: ‘So what’s your approach to photography?’ Schmidt: ‘I take pictures in Berlin.’ Looking at these pictures at Schmidt’s studio the next day, Springer reportedly said: ‘They’re all boring. But there’s method to them. We’ll do an exhibition.’

In 1976, Schmidt founded the Workshop for Photography at Kreuzberg’s adult education college, making a contribution to postwar German photography that has yet to be fully evaluated. Alongside the photography classes run by the Bechers at the Dusseldorf Art Academy and by Otto Steinert at the Folkwangschule in Essen, Kreuzberg became the third centre of a nascent discourse on art photography. Schmidt’s course sought contact with developments in the UK and the US, inviting colleagues like John Gossage and William Eggleston to Berlin to lecture and teach. In 1978, Schmidt showed parts of the pioneering exhibition New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape that was originally shown in 1975 in Rochester, New York. Recalling his first visit to Berlin, Gossage wrote in 1987 that Schmidt and his students wanted to: ‘pick the Americans’ brains. […] The US seemed to be doing the most interesting work at the time and they wanted to know how it was done. Something that might have been true then but has certainly changed 180 degrees since.’1

ohne Titel, from the series EIN-HEIT, 1991–94, silver gelatin print

Gossage’s Anglo-Saxon charitableness seems right. While Gossage’s own pictures of the Wall may have been what presented it as a worthwhile motif, his stylized approach in the tradition of American landscape photography was eclipsed by the sobriety of Schmidt’s Waffenruhe. With this series, Schmidt found his singular idiom, overcoming the illusion of objectivity in favour of a radical subjectivity, without ever slipping into the personal or the anecdotal. A solo show curated by Peter Galassi at MoMA in New York in 1988 brought Schmidt international recognition. But even after this museum validation, the book remained the conceptual framework for Schmidt’s series. Exhibitions are variations on the original, but Schmidt approached them with the same ruthless precision. In a show at Munich’s Haus der Kunst in 2010, for example, the photographs from EIN-HEIT were regimentally hung in steel frames at the same height at regular intervals around the monumental hall.

In photographs by the Bechers and many of their students like Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer and Thomas Struth, the classificatory thinking of the Enlightenment still exerts an influence, albeit in broken form. Their images always also celebrate the apparatus of production. With their supposed neutrality, they stabilize a viewing space in which the roles of those who make pictures and what they depict are clearly defined. Schmidt’s photography collapses this space again and again. Each picture presents itself as part of a situated exchange between subjects, mediated via the camera. The result is an existential introspection with no trace of sentimentality – objectivity without neutrality.

In Berlin-Wedding, Schmidt was still attempting to reach context-specificity through distance to his subject matter. In Waffenruhe this was achieved differently: the photographic apparatus looks back at itself, and all elements of the ‘photographic encounter’,2 including the photographer – and ultimately also the viewer – were called to account. This was a context-specificity that did without a firm basis, a practice that constantly reflected on its own conditions and that culminated in the photographs of Schmidt’s own genitals included in his 2010 Haus der Kunst retrospective (Untitled, from the series SELBST, Self, 1985).

ohne Titel, from the series LEBENSMITTEL, 2006–10, included in
The Encyclopedic
Palace – Il Palazzo Enciclopedico
55th Venice Biennale, 2013

In his book Regieren im Bildraum (Ruling Pictorial Space, 2008) Tom Holert distinguishes between pictures that generate difference and those that generate identity, thus not actually being pictures in the strict sense – like passport and ID photographs.3 In EIN-HEIT Schmidt included his own portrait, that of his identity card, but by reframing it he reappropriated it from his official state registration. It is precisely through his use of pictures that refuse pictorial status – only gaining impact in combination through contrast, repetition, mirroring and empty pages – that Schmidt can be understood to reclaim pictoriality.

With its laconic severity and no-bullshit pragmatism, Schmidt’s photography resembles the Brutalist architecture on which it often focused – be it buildings by Werner Düttmann in Kreuzberg or the Ihme Zentrum in Hanover where he took his first pictures outside Berlin in 1997. This was also where he photographed the series Frauen, which was pasted up on billboards with no further explanation as part of the Berlin Biennale in 2010. Disconcerting in their austere objectivity the details of female bodies were not obscured by an erotic charge or false empathy. They were proof of Schmidt’s radical pragmatism and his struggle towards a new, common sense humanism – something which he spoke of on numerous occasions towards the end of his life.

In Schmidt’s reflexive approach, any system exists not least in order to challenge itself. It is only logical, then, after 40 years of maintaining an abstract distance to reality via black and white photography, that his series Lebensmittel, in a change prompted in part by his first use of a digital camera, should make limited use of colour: the pink of a slice of mortadella, the pale yellow of a frozen pizza. Interestingly his exploration of the food industry, for which he visited factories and plantations across Europe, brought him as close as he had been to the content-focus of reportage photography since Berlin-Wedding. But these photographed subjects are detached from their locations. Schmidt’s approach to the strictures of the food industry is less illustrative than structural, as when he juxtaposes the head and rear end of a cow in pictures that seem to mirror each other. In 2013, Lebensmittel was shown at the 55th Venice Biennale and Schmidt was posthumously awarded the Prix Pictet in London for the series a year later.

ohne Titel 
From the series NATUR
1989 / 2014, silver gelatin print

In the final months of his life Schmidt produced a new book with his assistant Laura Bielau. It is small, bound in bright green linen, and titled Natur (Nature, 2014). It shows a majestic gnarled tree in a clearing, the light falling through its crown; on the facing page, the same tree, the camera angle lowered slightly. A branch bathed in sunlight against a slightly blurred backdrop of conifers is pictured; on the next double spread, the same image again, enlarged, as if opening your eyes a little wider. This is not untouched nature, and anything but a romantic gaze, but the book does modify Schmidt’s image as a photographer of merely concrete landscapes. In these counter-images to the built urban environment there are echoes of EIN-HEIT, as well as of Waffenruhe and the early Kreuzberg pictures. The photographs in Natur were taken between 1987 and ’97. That they have been published now comes across as a belated letting go. Like the streets of Kreuzberg, these snippets of nature are almost deserted, except for a cow, a duck and a fieldfare. But one gap is especially marked here – that left by the passing of this dis­coverer of problems, teller of jokes, inquisitive friend and remarkable photographer.

Translated by Nicholas Grindell

Kolja Reichert is a writer and critic. His reviews, essays and reportage have been published in newspapers such as Welt am Sonntag, Der Tagesspiegel, Die Zeit, and Weltkunst. He lives in Berlin.

1 John Gossage, Stadt des Schwarz / Eighteen
Photographs of Berlin by John Gossage (Loosestrife, Washington, D.C., 1987)
2 See Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography (Zone Books, New York, 2008)
3 ‘Picturelessness can thus mean, on the one hand, an absence of images in the pictorial space of the present due to censorship and repression, but also, on the other, the overwhelming presence of such pictures that consist exclusively in their function, such as that of identification.’ Tom Holert, Regieren im Bildraum (b_books, Berlin, 2008), p. 22

donderdag 6 december 2018

Views & Reviews Vulnerable Man in the Last Days before He has To Go into the Cell Good Goddamn Bryan Schutmaat Photography


In 2013 one of the most beautiful photo books that I have ever seen was released. The majestic Grays the Mountain Sends by Bryan Schutmaat. A study of blue collar working class communities in rural mid west America. It quietly announced itself as a classic, and proceeded to cast it’s spell over all those lucky enough to be able to acquire it. Everything about this book exuded quality. From the solid steel post binding, the choice of paper, and the inks chosen to highlight the star of the show, Bryan Schutmaat’s gloriously cinematic images. Even the title, taken from the poem Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg by Richard Hugo, enigmatic, wistful, melancholic, was a work of art.

Now, nearly five years later, quietly and without fanfare comes his second collection of original work. This time from Schutmaat’s own newly established publishing imprint Trespasser, and entitled simply, Good Goddamn.

Whether by chance or by design, once again Schutmaat has produced an elegiac study of jaded, fractured American masculinity. With Grays he focused on the hard working, world weary souls of the mining towns in the mid west of America. Towns and communities of yesteryear. Once booming and thriving on the success of the mining industry. Now shadows of their former selves, clinging to the present with an increasingly tenuous grip. Portraits and landscapes captured and committed to paper in delicate, subdued even faded, colour tones that perfectly complimented the mood of the piece.

Whilst Good Goddamn has a similar mood feel, thereafter the similarities start to soften.

The focus of Good Goddamn is a single figure. His name is Kris and he is in fact Schutmaat’s friend. We are told the pictures show his last days of freedom before being incarcerated. The nature of his crime not specified. The duration of his sentence unimportant. These are details that are irrelevant. The purpose of the book, it seems, is to heighten the realisation that the simple acts of choice that Kris – up until that point – would not have given a seconds thought to, are about to be denied him.

Unlike the muted colour pallet chosen for Grays, Good Goddamn is shot in black and white. The choice perfect for the reflective nature of the images. Pictures of the landscape, of home. of fun being had. Taking the truck out for one last blast around the fields. Hunting, drinking beer, sitting around a fire. Days with a friend, days full of simple nothingness… the happiest days. Then (for me at least) one image that reminds us why we have been invited here…..a hand pressed against a screen door, the face on the other side in silhouette. The outline of his cap….wisps of hair. A figure…anonymous…indistinguishable… unreachable.  A barrier…. him on one side us on the other, a hand reaching out, but no contact possible. This is where the fun stops.

The images implore us also to look at them with the same eyes, with his eyes, to realise that the simplest of pleasures are worth savouring. Take nothing for granted, anything done in the moment maybe done for the last time.

Then amongst the moments of reflection and farewell, a promise…a fire kept burning and the assurance of a waiting friend. In the book’s short coda written by Schutmaat, the cold beer and open door of a statement that would, no doubt be carried through the time spent away.

Good Goddamn is a consummate exercise in restraint. Printed on sumptuous superfine paper and bound in a plain black cover, secured by simple carton staples. The title loosely hand written across the front. it is as elegant and understated as Hepburn in shades. The content as perfect as a Carver short story, and as with Carver, there is no wastage here…no start and no end. Just a snapshot,…. a moment in the life of someone that is as ordinary and unexceptional as the rest of us. However as we all know, from a personal perspective even those unexceptional moments as viewed by those around, can be incidents of earth shattering importance to us.

To be both confident and talented enough to tell a story in twenty seven pictures are skills to be recognised and applauded. Each image to be studied and appreciated, each as important as the last. It goes without saying that this is the intention of every artist who presents their work for our consumption. However, many times the sheer volume of work contained between the covers of a book leaves heads spinning and turns an artist statement into an endurance test. How many times have I returned to a title to discover that I had missed a diamond of an image. Some may consider that a treat, but would a book make sense if we skipped the odd page or two…for whatever reason?  In some instances,maybe, but would the author be happy to know that those precious words that would have been agonised over and placed for a reason, were being treated with such casual abandon.

Good Goddamn is another perfect moment from Bryan Schutmaat. It is also likely to be as coveted as his first book…. and just like the cherished time depicted  between it’s covers, likely to disappear as fast.

Don’t let it get away.

Good Goddamn is published by Trespasser Publications.

Robin Titchener is a keen, bordering on fanatical photobook collector of thirty years.

Kwetsbare man in de laatste dagen voor hij de cel in moet
Galerie De Amerikaanse fotograaf Bryan Schutmaat fotografeerde zijn vriend Kris in zijn laatste vrije dagen voordat hij naar de gevangenis gaat.

Rianne van Dijck
5 december 2018

Foto uit de serie Good Goddamn van Bryan Schutmaat (2017)

Bryan Schutmaat, Good Goddamn

T/m 5 januari 2019 in Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen Amsterdam. Inl: woutervanleeuwen.com


Een man in een stoere geruite bloes met een cowboyhoed. Een zwaar gehavende pick-uptruck die door de modder ploegt in een verlaten bos. Hoeveel visuele elementen heb je in een fotoserie nodig om een verhaal bij de kijker op gang te brengen? Voeg daar foto’s aan toe van gestroopt wild, een jachtgeweer met telescoop-vizier en heel veel lege blikjes bier – en het is nog duidelijker: deze foto’s zijn gemaakt in het Amerikaanse Westen, ver weg van stadse beschaving, daar waar het leven ruig en hard is. Het zijn de ingrediënten van het fantastische fotoboek Good Goddamn van de Texaanse fotograaf Bryan Schutmaat (1983), waarvan nu vijftien foto’s te zien zijn in galerie Wouter van Leeuwen in Amsterdam.

Good Goddamn is een klein maar indrukwekkend project over Schutmaats goede vriend Kris, die in februari 2017 de laatste dagen in vrijheid doorbrengt voordat hij naar de gevangenis gaat. Wat de reden voor die detentie is laat Schutmaat in het midden. Het feit dat Kris nog vrij kan rondlopen suggereert dat het niet om een ernstig delict gaat, de melancholische sfeer in de foto’s maakt echter duidelijk dat wat komen gaat niet licht opgenomen wordt.

Alhoewel we Kris nergens duidelijk in beeld zien – Schutmaat fotografeerde hem op zijn rug, van veraf terwijl hij aan het jagen is, liggend in het gras met zijn arm over zijn gezicht of heel¬¬ onscherp – wordt invoelbaar hoezeer de komende gevangenschap als een zwaard boven zijn hoofd hangt. In dit stoeremannenuniversum van roken, drinken en jagen neemt Schutmaat met zijn subtiele foto’s de kijker mee in de kwetsbaarheid van dit moment.

Foto’s uit de serie Good Goddamn van Bryan Schutmaat (2017).

Ondanks de melancholische toon eindigt het boek met een lichte noot. „Dit boek is voor hem, het vuur dat hij brandend houdt en de nieuwe wereld die hem wacht”, schrijft Schutmaat, hintend op de toekomstige vrijlating van Kris. En in de tweede editie van Good Goddamn, uitgebracht in 2018, is een brief toegevoegd die Kris vanuit de gevangenis schreef: „Ik maak me soms zoveel zorgen. Het is moeilijk hierbinnen. Maar soms, in de avonden, kan ik de herten zien, en de paarden die hierachter in het veld lopen. Dan voel ik me weer oké.”

Het boek Good Goddamn (27 foto’s in zwart-wit) is in 2017 uitgegeven door uitgeverij Trespasser; 1ste editie 88 euro, 2de editie (2018 - inclusief brief van Kris uit de gevangenis) 45 euro, te koop bij de galerie.