Sunday, 30 December 2012

Charles Bukowski

Mein erstes Bukowski-Buch, „Aufzeichnungen eines Aussenseiters“, habe ich vor vielen Jahren während wenig inspirierenden juristischen Vorlesungen gelesen – ich war begeistert, habe aber keinen Schimmer mehr, was ich damals gelesen habe. Dafür habe ich noch Bilder im Kopf von „Das Schlimmste kommt noch oder Fast eine Jugend“, der Geschichte von Bukowskis Aufwachsen in Los Angeles.

„Schreie von Balkon“ versammelt Briefe, die Bukowski von 1958 bis 1994 geschrieben hat, und ist in der Tat, wie „Der Spiegel“ meint, „ein faszinierender Briefroman“. Zum ersten Mal laut auflachen musste ich auf Seite 5: „Ich weiss nicht, es gibt verdammt viel Enttäuschung und Trickserei in dieser Lyrik-Branche; die Bildung von Gruppen, der seelenvolle Händedruck, ich druck was von dir wenn du was von mir druckst, und hätten Sie nicht Lust vor einer kleinen erlesenen Schar von Homos zu lesen? Ich nehme eine Zeitschrift für Lyrik in die Hand, blättere die Seiten um, zähle die Sterne und Monde und Kümmernisse, gähne, pisse mein Bier aus und nehme mir die Stellenangebote vor.“ Und schon sind die Gefühle, die ich bei meiner Bukowski-Lektüre vor vielen Jahren verspürte, wieder da. Das schnörkellose Beschreiben von dem, was ist. Dieser gerade, klare, unprätentiöse Stil begeistert mich nach wie vor.

Bukowski schreibt wahre Sätze. Solche wie diese hier: „Gedichte schreiben ist nicht schwer. Danach leben, das ist schwer.“ Oder diese: „Kapieren die nicht, dass es schlicht und ergreifend angenehm sein kann, in einem Zimmer zu sitzen und Bier zu trinken und nicht viel zu sagen; die Welt draussen spüren, dasitzen und ausruhen.“ Oder diese: „Bin heute schwer verkatert, aber ich sehe kein zertrümmertes Mobiliar und habe keine aufgeschürften Fingernägel, also hat es keine Schlägerei gegeben. Gut.“

Bei Hemingway, schreibt er, sei es immer um Sieg oder Niederlage gegangen. Bei Camus habe das hingegen keine Rolle gespielt. Camus' Fremder „hatte den Mut, sich mit allem abzufinden, statt dagegen aufzubegehren.“ Und er fügt hinzu: „Ich könnte dieser Typ von Camus nicht sein; ich könnte nicht alles hinnehmen, um es abzutun, zu ignorieren oder in Trockenfäule zu machen. Irgendwo zwischen Hem und Camus stehe bzw. sitze ich heute morgen, verkatert, bleich, weiss, alt. Morgen gehts vielleicht wieder besser.“

Alle Empfindungen, Gedanken und Gefühle hat man nur in einem bestimmten Moment. Dann sind sie wieder weg. Stunden später sieht man alles womöglich wieder ganz anders. Bei einem Brief ist das klar, bei einem Briefroman wie dem vorliegenden auch, bei einem Roman hingegen nicht. Deshalb lese ich diese Briefe als was sie sind: Bestandesaufnahmen von Momenten. Näher an die Realität kann man mit Schreiben vermutlich gar nicht herankommen.

„Schreie vom Balkon“ sind eine erfrischende Lektüre. Weil Bukowski anders denkt als die meisten. Weil er eben auch anders lebt als die meisten: „Wenn ein Englischlehrer schreiben kann, gut, mir recht. Man muss nicht in fünfzig Ausnüchterungszellen landen, um zum Leben erweckt oder aus ihm hinausgedroschen werden. Aber an denen ihrem Leben ist mir etwas zu risikolos und glatt.“ Und weil er zu anderen Urteilen kommt als die meisten: „Mir kam der Gedanke, dass Henry Miller der Allwissende keine Ahnung von Sex hatte und nur darüber reden konnte, was ja das typische Verhalten von Nichtfickern ist.“

Am 7. Dezember 1963 schreibt er über John F. Kennedy, der am 22. November 1963 in Dallas. Texas erschossen wurde: „Du fragst, was ich von Kennedy halte. Gar nichts halte ich von K. Da unten, wo ich arbeite, haben sie unter seinem Foto ein schwarzes Schild: MÄRTYRER. Meint ihr wirklich? Harvard? Eine edle Tusse fürs Bett, die sich eine Wespentaille hinhungert. Die ihr das Baby im Leib killt? Meint ihr, ein Mensch muss als Märtyrer betrachtet werden, weil er den Weg des geringsten Widerstandes gegangen ist? Ist es wirklich die Hölle, schon bei der Geburt mehr Geld auf der Bank zu haben, als man je ausgeben kann? Ist es die Hölle, nie darüber nachdenken zu müssen, woher das Geld für die Miete kommt? Ist es die Hölle, wenn dir jemand eine Kugel in den Kopf schiesst, statt dass du's selber tun musst? Wo kommt die Hölle überhaupt ins Spiel, und wie definiert man das? Leiden nur die da oben?“

„Schreie vom Balkon“ ist ein Buch, das einen die Welt für einmal anders, ganz anders, sehen lässt.

Charles Bukowski
Schreie vom Balkon - Briefe 1958-1994
Hrsg. von Seamus Cooney, Deutsch von Carl Weissner
Gingko Press, Hamburg 2012

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Keine Zeit für Politik

Die Politik war in ihren Augen eine Tätigkeit für Rentner oder Snobs, ein Hobby, irgendwo zwischen dem Sammeln von Briefmarken und Golf angesiedelt. Man muss viel Zeit haben, sagte sie, um sich für Männer zu interessieren, die sich einen Dreck um andere scheren. Und Marie hatte viel zu wenig Zeit, um sie mit Diskussionen über Dinge zu vergeuden, die sowieso nichts brachten.

Jean-Paul Dubois
Ein französisches Leben

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans' Neue Welt

Leafing through this book, I very rarely felt attracted by what my eyes showed me, most pics didn't make me curious either, and I wondered why Wolfgang Tillmans is considered an outstanding photographer. At the same time I didn't wonder about it for many pics of famous photographers do not mean much to me. Still, there were of course some in Neue Welt that I did like.

On the other hand, the more background information I'm given, the more chances I have to understand what I'm looking at. And the interesting introduction to this book – a conversation between Wolfgang Tillmans and Beatrix Ruf  – provides just that: lots of useful background info.

Iguazu 2010 @ Wolfgang Tillmans 

I very much liked the pic ot the Iguazu Falls ... because I've been there, and hadn't seen them from so close. When I first looked at the pic I kinda liked it (and hadn't a clue why that was: it simply pleased my eyes) but didn't really know what I was looking at. Learning what I was having in front of me changed, and directed, my feelings towards this pic.

Beatrix Ruf asks: "The attention to detail in digital pictures no longer corresponds to our everyday seeing experience, unless one consciously changes to extreme focusing. In your new photographs, one continously encounters this extreme perceptual density, for example, in the picture of the waterfall (Iguazu, 2010), where even the smallest spray of water surprises with its staggering resolution, or when microstructures become large-format images." Wolfgang Tillmans answers: "This question deeply preoccupies me, now more than ever since I switched to the digital camera. It enables pictures to be taken with an almost endless information density, which only reveals all its details when enlarged to two meters. Even then, one doesn't see pixels! I had to learn from scratch how to take pictures. Thirty-five millimeter film is actually enough for me, since it corresponds to what my eye actually sees." 


@Wolfgang Tillmans Berlin/London

Some of the pics (the two above, for instance), I thought, anybody could have taken but, and that is the point, who would have put them together like this?

And then there are the double-pages with layered images and overlaps. Tllmans elaborates: "These layered images, the impure, the contaminated, and that which isn't compatible but which functions just the same, were present in my work from the start ... Now my perception of the world has found its form."

PS: Wolfgang Tillmans traveled quite a bit in order to shoot these pictures. "There is less of a system to my traveling. It has more to do with possible flight routes. What lies over there? What could be connected to that. That's how I landed in unheard of spots like Darwin in North Australia." I very much like this approach (although I thought the German translation of "unheard of spots like Darwin" – "Unorten wie Darwin" – not only awkward but incomprehensible), the result – the pictures – I however thought less convincing.

Wolfgang Tillmans
Neue Welt
English / German / French
Taschen Verlag, Cologne 2012 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Photography & Propaganda


Hans Durrer's Framing the World deals with questions that are rarely asked in texts that deal with photography and the media: Does a picture really tell more than a thousand words or is it the other way 'round that we need a thousand words to understand a picture? Is it true that seeing is believing or do we simply see what we happen to believe? Why is it that the act of closely looking, if it does not occur in a socially accepted situation, is essentially taboo? Are we condemned to see the world in a culturally conditioned way?

Framing the World argues that the mainstream media (their owners are pillors of society and not revolutionaries) are essentially propaganda instruments; it stresses the importance to not simply accept the contexts that the main news providers put on the agenda but encourages us to create our own.

Hans Durrer
Framing the World
Photography, Propaganda and the Media
Alondra Press, Houston 2011
A Nook eBook by Barnes & Noble

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Norenas Welt

Meine Nichte Norena ist am 1. Dezember sechs Jahre alt geworden. Anfang Oktober hatte Nadja, ihre Mutter, Norena ihre Kamera in die Hand gedrückt und sie losgeschickt. Und das ist dabei unter anderem herausgekommen:



Fotos zeigen uns, was Fotografen sich entschieden haben, einzurahmen. Das ist häufig ein instinktiver Vorgang, bei dem man oft erst im Nachhinein entdeckt, was man eigentlich aufgenommen hat.

Ich habe Norena nicht gefragt, weshalb sie fotografiert hat, was diese Fotos zeigen. Mir reicht, vor Augen zu haben, worauf sie sich im Moment des Abdrückens konzentriert hat ... und meine Gedanken wandern zu lassen ...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Amy Waldman: The Submission

Two years after 9/11, a jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of the attack. The jurors deliberate on the designs without knowing who the submitting architects are. Only when the decision is taken do they learn that the winner is an American Muslim.

What now ensues is an engrossing tale on how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy. At the centre of this absorbing thriller are Mohammad Khan, the memorial's designer, and Claire Burwell, a 9/11 widow and the representative of the bereaved on the jury, who initially backs Khan's Garden and finally turns on both design and designer

'Booklist' called The Submission "The Bonfire of the Vanities for our time" and I do share that feeling. Michiko Kakutani of the 'New York Times' however opines that Waldman's story "has more verisimilitude, more political resonance and way more heart than Mr Wolfe's own 1987 best-seller The Bonfire of the Vanities ...". Since I had loved Wolfe's novel (and do like pretty much everything by him), I wondered whether Kakutani might on principle be not very fond of him, and so I googled her and Wolfe and found that she is said to generally dislike him, and Philip Roth, and Norman Mailer ... authors that I myself like to read ...

The Submission is much more than a thriller; it is an enlightening tale about New York politics, art, religion, the life of illegal immigrants, differing perceptions and attitudes, and warring interest groups – a tale that tells us more about the social fabric of this extraordinary centre of ambition (and the modern world) than any number of social studies. We come across the successful politician who has a keen sense of what the majority wants to hear, the hungry journalist who is unaware of the problems that sensational journalism is causing, ruthless political activists who solely pursue their own interests, and and and ...

I especially love this book for phrases like these:
"The Garden was too beautiful, Ariana and the other artists kept saying of Claire's choice. They saw for a living, yet when it came to the Garden they wouldn't see what she saw."
"The mockery of pretension, Claire decided, could also be pretentious."
"She knew children lived between the poles of invention and imitation."

And, I warmed much to the clashes of opinions that were expressed so convincingly:
"Some things don't deserve to be understood. Apartheid didn't deserve to be understood, even if the whites who benefitted from it didn't see it that way."
"Back when the Carmelite nuns wanted to put a convent at Auschwitz, the pope decided to respect the sensitivities of Jews and move it. He wasn't saying the nuns had no right to be there; he wasn't saying they were in any way responsible for what happened to the Jews. He was saying: rights do not make right, that feelings matter, too."

To me, the question that lies at the heart of this book is this: Should (can) we look at a piece of art without considering the person who created it? There isn't really an answer, as Amy Waldman impressively demonstrates:
"Down the stairs back in time, until she came upon herself and Cal standing in front of Picasso's 'Weeping Woman' at the Tate in London. Claire could still visualize the portrait today – the blue in her hair, the red in her hat, that ghastly, skull-like area around the mouth – more clearly, in fact, than she could see the husband who had stood next to her.
'Kind of ruins it that Picasso was so horrible, doesn't it?' Clare had said. 'He probably made Dora Maar cry, then painted her crying.'
'So great art requires a morally pure artist?' Cal asked. 'You look at the creation, not the creator.'
'So you ignore that he tormented poor Dora'
'No, you judge the paintings as works of art, and Picasso as a man. There's no inconsistency in loving one and reviling the other. And thankfully the converse is true as well: you love me even though I made some pretty lousy art. Maybe arrogance is necessary for greatness.'
(...) Perhaps they were inseparable, as Cal had argued  – the arrogance firing the creation  – but she wanted the Garden pure again, free of associations, free of Khan. The Garden as she first had seen it. But she couldn't take it from him, because it was his as much as, more than, hers. He had created it. She bent her head to her hands and cried."

Amy Waldmann
The Submission
Windmill Books, London 2012

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Arne Weychardt: Berlin 3D

The problem with book reviews is that once through with the book you are left with images and impressions, some favourable, some less so, that you now have to find words for. Sometimes, and that goes especially for photo books, you do not know what to say except that you like a tome or that you don't. In the case of Arne Weychardt's Berlin 3D: I like it. My favourite pic is the Living Doll mime artist at Checkpoint Charly.

What do I like about Berlin 3D? Well, this is the first time I look at photographs of Berlin in 3D, and that of course makes this tome special to me. Also, I do like looking at places I know through another person's eyes, and thus getting out of the prison of my own thoughts.

Berlin 3D is not really a book that lends itself to reviewing. In my view (yes, I know, a rationalisation is needed) it makes more sense to introduce it. And the best way to do that is to quote from "A declaration of love" by Dagmar Weychardt, the cousin of the photographer. She writes:

"In 1980 Arne Weychardt spent the Easter holiday at his grand-mother's old house with his brother and cousin. Up in the attic, they discovered a strange spectacle-like viewing device consisting of two close-up lenses with two 8x8cm slides set in front of them. The distance between the slides and lenses could be adjusted. Curious, 13-year old Arne put the antique device on his nose. After a few seconds, flooded by the shimmering light of the early spring sun, the hand-coloured slides were magically transformed. Ancient gates, columns, walls and sculptures were suddenly filled with texture and thrown into relief. The boy recognized the ancient Forum Romanum. Little by little, more monuments stood out from each other and the longer he looked at the image through the thick lenses, the more powerful the effect became."

Feel like sharing Arne's sensations? Put on the 3D glasses included with this book and enjoy looking at Berlin with changed eyes!

Arne Weychardt
Berlin 3D
Deutsch/English/Français/Español
Verlag Haffmans & Tolkemitt, Berlin 2012

Sunday, 11 November 2012

In Rio Grande do Sul

Copyright @ Ricardo Schütz

I have mentioned Rio Pardo before on this blog; this time now I am able to show you a photograph of the river restaurant there. I do not remember having seen it from this angle or in this light. What today comes to mind when looking at Ricardo's excellently framed pic is the last time I was there - it was rather cold, and rainy, and all grey in grey. Nevertheless, it felt good eating fish and chips in good company. What this photo also does to me: it fills me with a longing for Brazil, a place not burdened by history, where I felt everything was possible, or in the words of the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, "um país do futuro".

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Unter Schweizern

Getreu dem journalistischen Bonmot, „Nach einem Tag vor Ort, ein Artikel; nach einer Woche vor Ort, ein Hintergrundbericht; nach einem Monat vor Ort, ein Buch“, legt der Korrespondent der Süddeutschen Zeitung in der Schweiz, Wolfgang Koydl, der allerdings schon etwas mehr als einen Monat im Land weilt, ein Buch über die Schweiz und die Schweizer vor.

Um etwaigen Missverständnissen vorzubeugen: es ist begrüssenswert, wenn einer zur Feder greift (oder in die Tasten haut), wenn die Eindrücke noch frisch sind, ärgerlich ist jedoch, wenn er darob vergisst, seine Hausaufgaben zu machen. Konkret: Fast alle schweizerdeutschen Ausdrücke in diesem Buch sind nicht nur falsch („Bömbli“ anstatt „Bömbeli“), sondern gelegentlich – jedenfalls für Schweizer wie mich – schlicht unverständlich („Gescheiterli“). Das ist umso erstaunlicher, als er doch einen Schweizerdeutsch-Sprachkurs besucht hatte, wo er unter anderem darüber aufgeklärt wurde, dass es den Genitiv im Schweizerdeutschen nicht gibt, dafür jedoch den Genitiv II.

Der Einstieg (die Beschreibung eines dieser typischen übereifrigen Nachbarn) ist sehr gelungen und erinnerte mich an meinen ehemaligen, damals gerade frisch aus Deutschland zugezogenen, Strafrechtsprofessor in Basel, der auf meine Frage, was denn so sein erster Eindruck von Land und Leuten sei, trocken meinte: Polizei braucht es hier ja nicht wirklich, es gibt ja Nachbarn. Ebenfalls sehr schön gelungen (auf den ersten Seiten – und wenn die nicht stimmen, stimmt häufig das ganze Buch nicht) ist die Beschreibung von Koydls Chefredakteur: „... in all den Jahren ist er sich selbst treu geblieben, soll heissen: Irgendwelche Anzeichen von Lernprozessen, Selbsterkenntnis, Altersmilde gar sind nicht zu erkennen.“

"Wer hat's erfunden?" brachte mich immer mal wieder zum Staunen. So war mir nicht bekannt, dass jeder Hund (samt Besitzer), der neu in eine Gemeinde kommt, einen Kurs absolvieren muss. Und zum Lachen, die Beschreibung von Wollerau etwa, wo viele ganz Reiche eine Adresse haben, jedoch nicht wohnen. „Der Ort ist bar jeder Attraktivität. Dort kann man eigentlich nur leben, wenn man dort nicht wohnen muss.“ Oder der Hinweis auf die meterhohe Aufschrift in altdeutscher Fraktur auf einer Hauswand in Luzern: „Was haben Sie eigentlich gegen Beamte? Die tun doch gar nichts.“ Oder: „Irritierend für den Fremden mutet dabei an, dass Bürger von ausserhalb der Basel Stadtmauern – der Tennisstar Roger Federer beispielsweise – nicht als 'Baselländer', sondern als 'Baselbieter' bezeichnet werden – nach dem Gebiet. Kein Wunder, dass ich anfangs an ein Auktionshaus dachte.“

Schweizer tragen oft sehr absonderliche Namen, sowohl vorne als hinten“, behauptet Koydl und ich wunderte mich schon, wie er das wohl belegen würde, da ich selber Namen wie Imoberdorf, Dahinden oder Regenass völlig normal finde (zugegeben, etwas sonderbar finde ich es schon, dass ich solche Namen bisher so normal finden konnte) und stiess dann auf den wirklich ultimativen Brüller, auf den ich selber gar nie gekommen wäre: „Vollends verwirrte mich ein Abgeordneter im Berner Bundesparlament mit dem Namen This Jenny. Vermutlich wollten ihn seine Eltern von seinem Bruder unterscheiden, den sie schätzungsweise That Johnny genannt hatten.“

„Wer hat's erfunden?“ ist informativ, witzig und aufklärend, auch Schweizer werden bei der Lektüre einiges lernen können, an Geschichtlichem, Sprachlichem, Geografischem und Kulturellem. Ich war übrigens ganz erstaunt, dass es zu Ehren von Freddie Mercury in Montreux einen Sockel gibt. Und verwundert darüber, dass ich bis jetzt ohne die beim Wandern erforderlichen Grussregeln habe auskommen können (wenn ein Paar mehr als drei Meter auseinander geht, grüsst man sie separat; ab 3000 Meter wird geduzt): „Langjährige Kenner der Schweiz haben die Theorie aufgestellt, dass dieses sogenannte 'Grüezi-Wandern' von den Schweizern nur deshalb so aufmerksam gepflegt wird, weil ihnen dies eine der wenigen Gelegenheiten im Leben bietet, sich mit anderen ebenso wortkargen Landsleuten verbal auszutauschen.“

Wolfgang Koydl
Wer hat's erfunden?
Unter Schweizerm
Ullstein Taschenbuch, Berlin 2012
www.ullstein.de

Sunday, 28 October 2012

France Atlantique

I've never visited the French Atlantic Coast but have always been fascinated by it. Deauville comes to mind, because of a novel by Marguerite Duras, and the beach scenes in the movie that was based on Philippe Djian's 37.2 le matin, and Biarritz, and Capbreton (probably because both sound good in my ears) – some impressive pics of these two places can be found in this nicely done tome.

The photographs are in black and white and most of them are devoid of people, thus emanating a somewhat eerie and strangely unreal atmosphere. It's of course to do with the light but not only. The more time I spent with these pics, the more I felt intrigued by the angles that Marco Paoluzzo decided to choose – it is the framing that make these images so special. Take for example the pic on pages 82 and 83 that shows the rugged Cõtes d'Armor of Locquémeau taken in 2011. One can see two high man-made poles "polluting" this wild and seemingly untouched part of the coast and I suppose most photographers would have chosen an angle that would have avoided having them in the pciture ... but it is precisely these two poles that my eyes constantly return to and that make me perceive this coast in most unexpected ways. Needless to say, I have no idea whether Marco Paoluzzo had in mind what I'm reading into this picture yet this is the fate of all photographs: they become independent of the photographer: once out there, the readers do with them whatever they please.

Marco Paoluzzo's France Atlantique is introduced by Pierre Rouyer who writes: "Sand, pebbles, dunes, cliffs, estuaries, the rhythmic beat of the backwash, the coming and going of the tides, the piercing cries of the birds as they sweep into the sea spray. And on the fringe of this wild grandeur, man's ever-growing presence is signalled by the abundance of roads and built-up places. When you arrive at the seashore from inland, you first see a landscape of harbour cities, seaside resorts and silent towns. Yet the sprawling mass of saltwater is very close. You can make it out when you look at the sky. Something in the shapes and movements of the clouds and a certain brilliance of the light herald the end of terra firma."

I find this a perceptive, thoughtful and very apt introduction to Paoluzzi's Atlantic pictures for it helps me, by giving my mind contemplative directions, to see them once again anew.

Marco Paoluzzo
France Atlantique
Benteli Verlag
Bern - Sulgen - Zürich, 2012

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Brasilien: Der Tanz in den Wohlstand

2006 war ich zum ersten Mal in Brasilien, drei Monate erkundete ich per Bus den Nordosten des Landes. 2008 und 2009 arbeitete ich dann als Englischlehrer in Santa Cruz do Sul, einer Stadt mit 120'000 Einwohnern, zwei Stunden von Porto Alegre. Seither begeistert und bewegt mich dieses Land. Weshalb ich denn auch sofort ein paar Bücher dazu empfehlen will: 'Das Rauschen der Welt' von Rainer Fabian; A 'Death in Brazil' von Peter Robb; 'Tent of Miracles' von Jorge Amado; 'Brasil. Um País do Futuro' von Stefan Zweig; 'Brasil para principiantes' von Peter Kellemen und 'Communicating with Brazilians: When Yes means No' von Tracy Novinger. Bei all diesen Büchern spürte ich eine ansteckende Brasilien-Begeisterung, die dem 'Brasilien-Du' leider abgeht.

Vielleicht hätte mich bereits der Untertitel skeptisch machen sollen, denn in den Wohlstand tanzt niemand, nirgendwo, auch nicht in Brasilien. Oder das Inhaltsverzeichnis, dem ich entnehme, dass, abgesehen von der Einleitung von Oliver Prange, gerade einmal zwei Autoren Texte beigetragen haben: Alex Gertschen und Peter K. Wehrli. Gertschen ist promovierter Historiker, berichtete von 2007 bis 2011 für die NZZ aus Mexiko-Stadt und so schreibt er auch: informativ, detailliert und leblos. Die Texte hätten überall, wo es ein gutes Archiv gibt, geschrieben werden können. Von der Lebendigkeit, die Brasilien ausmacht, spürte ich so ziemlich gar nichts.

Peter K. Wehrlis Texten merkt man hingegen die Brasilien-Faszination an, vor allem seinem langen Aufsatz mit dem schönen Titel 'Die sinnliche Zivilisation Brasiliens  wo das Grün grüner, das Rot röter und das Blau blauer ist', worin er unter anderem von Jorge Amados Besuch im Zürcher Niederdorf und von Cendrars' als Lehrmeister der brasilidade berichtet. Bei Wehrlis beiden anderen Texten – 'Kunst vor Ort: die neue Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro' und 'Inseln der Hoffnung –  die Fundación Avina setzt auf Ökoeffizienz' – konnte ich mich jedoch des Eindrucks nicht erwehren, es handle sich um Auftragsarbeiten des Industriellen Stephan Schmidheiny (in beiden Texten kommt er prominent vor). Damit soll keineswegs etwas gegen das beeindruckende Engagement Schmidheinys in Lateinamerika gesagt werden, doch wirkt die Themengewichtung bei diesem extrem vielfältigen Land verblüffend fantasielos. 

Und dann sind da noch die Fotos. Sie stammen von Fotografen der Agentur Noor: Francesco Zizola, Andrea Bruce und Kadir van Lohuizen. Angesprochen haben mich vor allem die Aufnahmen Zizolas zum 'Treibstoff vom Acker' sowie die Schwarz/Weiss Bilder van Lohuizens vom '(echten) wilden Westen' - da konnte ich dieses gewaltige, mich staunen machende und in seinen Bann ziehende Land fühlen.

DU Oktober 2012
Brasilien
Der Tanz in den Wohlstand
http://www.du-magazin.com

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Nadav Kander

Copyright @ Nadav Kander

Photographer Nadav Kander was born in 1961 in Tel Aviv and grew up in South Africa. His photography, he says, attempts to do what good art does: to make the viewer think himself into what he is looking at in order to have something stirred that needn't have anything to do with the actual photograph.

stern Fotografie Nr. 69 features landscapes, portraits, and bodies; we also get to see two pictures by Felicity McCabe of the photographer at work. stern-Artdirector Johannes Erler characterises Kander's portraits as "of such contrived artificialness that, at first glance, you hardly recognise the people he has portrayed. e.g. Robbie Williams – only to understand them, moments later, better than before." Not sure about that. Moreover, quite some people (see David Lynch above) are easily recognisable. On the other hand, how does one bring the many disparate portraits in this tome under one roof? Well, why should that be necessary anyway?
Copyright @ Nadav Kander

 I felt especially attracted by Kander's landscape shots that Johannes Erler describes as "stage-managed, although he takes nothing away from them nor adds anything to them. But by apparently observing them for so long, he manages to distil their essence in both artistic and factual terms." I must admit I'm a bit at a loss in regards to such ponderings. The essence of a landscape? To me, Kander's landscapes radiate something surreal; human beings, when present, seem to disappear into the vastness of space. It is the spaciousness that Kander managed to capture that I find so remarkable, it filled me with a sense of awe.
Copyright @ Nadav Kander

The third section of this well-done tome shows bodies painted white. On most of them their faces are turned away from the viewer. Kander elaborates: "So they're there, and they're not there – and that reflects the melancholy in us ... The vulnerability through form is what I'm seeking to show ..." Does he succeed? To my mind, he does.

"In Kander's pictures the world is a collection of strange places and people", comments editor Jochen Siemens. Taken with an exceptional eye and a keen sense for proportion, I feel like adding.

***

stern Fotografie Nr. 69 includes Talent Booklet 02 featuring Katja Mayer who is introduced by Nadav Kander: "It becomes more about what lies behind the lens than what is in front, and that is what I like very much about this work." Curious? Check her work out at www.katjameyer.com.

Nadav Kander
stern Fotografie Nr. 69

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ghosts by Daylight

Janine di Giovanni, born in New Jersey, a former senior correspondent for The Times, is contributing editor for Vanity Fair. I've read, and was impressed by, some of her reports from war zones, hence my interest in this memoir.

"Ghosts by Daylight" is, on the one hand, the story of an amour fou that di Giovanni calls "Love affair with Bruno, 1993-2009" although I didn't come away with the impression that this love is over: "And he sends me messages that no one else would understand. What do the messages say? They are always about love, but a certain kind of love. They are always about destiny, fate, surrendering. Redemption." On the other hand, it is a book about the author's fascination (and addiction to?) war. She does not really elaborate on why she seems to like spending time in war zones (she does however a convincing job describing it) but claims that: "War did not frighten me; cocktail parties in London, offices in New York, and checking my bank account frightened me."

How come she decided to terminate the love affair with Bruno Girodon, a French cameraman? "Long ago, when I met him, I knew Bruno was like Ulysses. He would roam the earth but would always yearn for home and mourn those whom he loved. But when he finally reached the home he wanted and needed, he would pace like a wounded tiger in a cage. He could not settle. He could not be settled. He had tried because of how much he loved me, and his son. But it was impossible, and it was killing me, and it was killing him to try." This not only describes Bruno Girodon, this also describes Janine di Giovanni.

After two or three years trying to live a regular life in Paris, she gets a call from a doctor at Val de Grace, a military hospital: "'I wanted to tell you,' she said, 'that I'm here with your husband and I am keeping him here under orders for several weeks.' When I asked why, she said it was her belief that he was exhausted and suicidal." Bruno finds help in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, Janine tries to come to grips with addiction: "The relationship one has with drugs or alcohol or whatever it is that takes you into another realm – addiction – is something I struggled to understand. I had tried everything in my life, but nothing ever caught me in its grip." In time, she felt like AA was taking her husband from her. "I knew it was keeping him sober, but I was not sure, as someone had told me, that it was not one addiction replacing another." And if so? One of the two is killing you, the other helps you to live. Moreover, when Luca, Janine's and Bruno's son, was six months old, Janine would go back to Baghdad, leaving him with his father and his nanny in Paris. "My breasts leaked milk and I missed my baby with a ferocity that I could not understand." She flies back to Paris. And, quite some time later, to Afghanistan ... In June 2012, she reported for the Daily Beast from war-torn Syria. To me, that sounds pretty much like an addiction to war zones.

This "memoir of war and love" is also a book about war reporting. About fighting in Côte d'Ivoire she writes: "At 6 a.m., the phone rang. It was the foreign desk of CNN in London. 'What's going on down there?' someone shouted down the crackling line. 'We are hearing news of a coup, we are hearing news of another war ...'. I got on the phone and did a live report about not knowing what was going on, but describing the scenes on the street, the fear, the disorientation, the feeling in the air shortly before a country blows sky high." CNN, by the way, when it comes to giving fellow journalists a ride in their armoured cars, has  "the reputation of not helping anyone but their own. The BBC people, however, were more generous ...".

"Ghosts by Daylight" is a moving, informative, and very personal book (although I thought the parts elaborating on the author's pregnancy overly long {women readers might see that differently}); I highly recommend it, not least, because of insights such as this: "But do we ever see things that we really don't want to see?"

Janine di Giovanni
Ghosts by Daylight
A Memoir of War and Love
Bloomsbury, London 2011

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Making History

"The maker of images is the constructor of reality", I read in the introduction to this interesting tome. More often of media reality, I'd say. Nevertheless, the authors (Anne-Marie Beckmann, Lilian Engelmann, Peter Gorschlüter, Holger Kube Ventura, Alexandra Lechner and Celina Lunsford) make a good point by elaborating on the importance of images in war photography and claim that  "it was images that decided the outcome of the Vietnam War in the sixties". I've heard this argument before, I've often used it myself but I'm not so sure anymore. How would one prove that anyway? On the other hand, there is no doubt, of course, that the Abu Ghraib pictures had a tremendous impact on, and shaped, reality.
Photo by Oliviero Toscani

Most of what we know about the world, we know from the media. And despite us not having terrible confidence in these media, we nevertheless build our views of the world on them, the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann wrote. The same applies to images: we know we shouldn't trust them and still we do.

"Making History" deals with the artistic reflection of public images, it asks questions such as: "What artistic images thematize social ruptures, turning points, and changes today, and how do they do so? Can the artistic reflection of public images be regarded as a kind of contemporary history painting – or must we not regard our current media reality as such?“  
Photo by Samuel Fosso

Many artists presented in this book "base their works on well-known media images of events and consciously work with the stamp they have left behind in the collective memory." With what purpose? In order to artisticly reflect on images that made history. I didn't think many of the works convincing, the texts were however often illuminative. An example: Manii Sriwanichpoom reconstructs two photographic icons from the coverage of the Vietnam War, the one that Nick Ut took of screaming children fleeing a napalm attack, and the one by Eddie Adams that shows General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Vietcong-prisoner. Reconstructing here means that the protagonists are shown as consumers of luxury goods. The pics are supposed to be a critique of "the influence wielded by corporations on the economic and social development of individual countries". Clearly, these are strong and forceful images. Whether they really come across as a critique of corporations is another question.
Photo by James Mollison

Lots of artists are present in this tome, among them Barbara Klemm, David LaChapelle, Martha Rosler, Oliviero Toscani, and Jeff Wall, and their works surely merit to be contemplated. Especially convincing I thought Barbara Basting's essay "The Power of Images is the Power of Filters" where I came across this pointed insight: "It is the visual oversimplification that makes history but also distorts it in the process."

Making History
Edited by RAY Fotografieprojekte Frankfurt/RheinMain
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2012

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Tambo Colorado

"Tambo Colorado is a well-preserved Inca adobe complex near the coast of Peru. The site is located just inland from the south coast of Peru in the Pisco River Valley about 40 km along the highway to Ayacucho known as the Via de los Libertadores, close to the town of Pisco," I read in Wikipedia. I visited the site in January 2012, together with a young family from the town of San Andres, near Pisco.

Here's how I saw them:


And this is how the husband saw me:

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mailer Monroe Stern

Dieses Buch sind eigentlich zwei Bücher: eine Biografie und eine Bilder-Retrospektive über eine Schauspielerin, deren grösste Liebesaffäre jene mit der Kamera war“, meinte Norman Mailer in seiner Biografie "Marilyn", 1973. Der Kölner Taschen Verlag hat ihn beim Wort genommen und nun seinen Originaltext mit Bert Sterns Fotografien aus dem Last Sitting herausgebracht.

Bert Stern wurde in Brooklyn, New York, geboren, brachte sich das Fotografieren selbst bei und war in den 1960er-Jahren ein sehr erfolgreicher Mode- und Werbefotograf. Unter dem Titel "Vier Tage im Juni 1962" beschreibt er, wie die Fotos in diesem Band entstanden. Und fügt hinzu: "Marilyn konnte nicht wissen, welchen Einfluss diese Fotos auf mein weiteres Leben hatten. Sie ist vor fünfzig Jahren in mein Leben getreten, und ich muss zugeben: Sie ist immer noch da." Sieht man sich Sterns Aufnahmen an, glaubt man zu verstehen, warum – die Kamera mag Marilyn nicht nur, sie liebt sie geradezu. "Sie ist einfach lebendiger auf der Leinwand als die anderen. Sie besitzt mehr Energie, mehr Humor, sie ist mehr an die Rolle und an das Spiel hingegeben als die anderen – sie spielt die Rollen, lässt einen teilhaben an dem Glück, das sie darstellt, und das ist schliesslich unabdingbar für jede billige Unterhaltung", schreibt Norman Mailer.

Sterns Marilyn-Fotos sind Inszenierungen und aus sich selbst verständlich, sie brauchen weder Bildlegenden noch erklärende Texte. Trotzdem verändert sich unsere Sichtweise, wenn wir wissen, dass sechs Wochen nach diesen Aufnahmen, Marilyn Monroe nicht mehr lebte. Unsere Sichtweise verändert sich aber auch, wenn wir uns auf den grandiosen Marilyn-Text von Norman Mailer einlassen: "Sein heimlicher Ehrgeiz war gewesen, Marilyn zu stehlen; in seiner Eitelkeit glaubte er, niemand könne das Beste in ihr so gut zum Vorschein bringen wie er eine Einbildung, die er mit vielleicht fünfzig Millionen anderer Männer teilte ...". Nur können diese vermutlich keine so gute Geschichte erzählen wie Mailer es vermag. "Er könnte eine Geschichte erzählen, die vielleicht lebensechter war als etwas bloss Erfundenes, denn er vermochte sich ja oft sehr gut in einen verschlossenen, stillen Menschen einzufühlen und würde, ausgestattet mit schriftstellerischer Freiheit, die verborgenen Impulse im Leben einiger seiner tatsächlich existierenden Figuren erkunden."

Seine Leser sind froh, dass er es getan hat. Und auch darum, dass man in diesem tollen Buch eine so schöne Aufforderung findet wie diese von Marilyn: "Als ich ein kleines Mädchen war, hat mir nie jemand gesagt, ich sei hübsch. Man sollte allen kleinen Mädchen sagen, dass sie hübsch sind, auch wenn es nicht stimmt".

Norman Mailer / Bert Stern
Marilyn Monroe
Taschen Verlag, Köln 2012
www.taschen.de

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Landscape and Structures

Landscape and Structures presents civil engineering structures that serve traffic routes such as bridges, tunnels, passageways etc. built into the Swiss landscape. The book represents a personal inventory of civil engineer Jürg Conzett, photographed by Martin Linsi.

Landscape and Structures is composed according to geography and comprises man-made structures from all over Switzerland with an emphasis on works from Graubünden.

My favourites in terms of bridges are the Punt da Suransuns, a footbridge composed of slabs of Andeer gneiss that perfectly fit into the stony section of the Via Spluga long-distance footpath between Switzerland and Italy, and the Zweiter Travesiner Steg, a bridge with inclined stairs that also forms part of the same long-distance footpath.

Jürg Conzett writes how I imagine a civil engineer to write: not exactly easy to understand, that is: "Parallel-boom trussed girders, which were wonderfully efficient to manufacture, came to be seen in the early 20th century as 'boring, stiff and alien to the landscape' (Robert Moser). There emerged an aesthetic preference for 'more animated-looking girder designs' (in German: 'lebhaftere Umrisse für Fachwerkträger'), as evinced by this semi-parabolic girder." (Innbrücke Zernez der Rhätischen Bahn).

It is no small challenge to photograph bridge after bridge so that the viewer does not feel easily bored. Martin Linsi made good use of his imagination and must have done quite a bit of walking in order to find the different angles from where to take his pictures. The black and white photographs depict rural and urban scenes, old and new structures and facilities of various sizes. I was especially impressed by the pictures of the Susten Pass road - a sequence of images from close and afar that are put together in a most thoughtful and appealing way that makes you feel like you are not looking at pictures but at "the real thing".

Landscape and Structures
English / German
A personal inventory of Jürg Conzett,
photographed by Martin Linsi
Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich 2012  

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Mojave Chamber of Commerce

Hans Durrer @ Emelle Sonh

In the summer of 2007, I spent three months in the Southern Californian desert. One of the places that especially fascinated me was Mojave. What I remember is its airplane cemetery, the Motel 6, main street, a young woman at Burger King who had no idea how to go about her job, a shopping place, the sun setting in the desert and drinking coffee with Emelle. I do however have no recollection at all of the place where the above photo was taken.

It seems strange to me that there should be a Mojave Chamber of Commerce – didn't the whole place, apart from the airport cemetery, basically consist of some houses along a street? On the other hand, why should that not suffice for a chamber of commerce? Whatever, there actually is a Mojave Chamber of Commerce (or at least a building that carries its name), the photograph not only proves that, the photograph also proves that I myself was actually there.

PS: In a portrait on Arte, Jonathan Franzen said about the unspoiled Mojave desert: Nobody knows what to do with this vast nature and this is the reason why it is unspoiled.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Luca Zanier: Power Book

In this truly stunning book, photographer Luca Zanier, born 1966, offers us his view of the interior life of the power industry. We get to see pictures of the inside of nuclear power plants, gasworks, thermal power stations, an oil storage tank, an oil tanker etc.

The photos are aesthetically marvellous, the handling of angles and light captivating. Moreover, the format (27 x 37 cm) in which they are presented contributes considerably to the sense of wonder that the viewer will experience when looking at these pics.

To me, it felt like being in a science fiction movie. Without the captions (in the appendix) I would not have known that I was looking at parts of energy producing systems. What came to mind was Matthew B. Crawford's observation (in Shop Class as Soulcraft) that in our modern world we increasingly get less and less to see of the interior of complex machines.

Luca Zanier does show us such interiors. The effect his photographs had on me was however not so much educational but, strangely enough, rather made me feel like being on another planet.

There are two texts that accompany this impressive tome, one by André Küttel, the other by Bill Kouwenhoven. Küttel writes: "Abandoned worlds of concrete and steel reveal themselves to us, cathedrals of the modern age, temples of an energy devouring society that radiate a cold logic." I do not share his view. Cathedrals and temples are places of public worship and power plants are not. In addition, I not only hope but assume that these power facilities are manned and not abandoned.

In sum: an aesthetically exquisite achievement.

Luca Zanier
Power Book
Benteli Verlags AG, Bern 2012
www.benteli.ch

Sunday, 19 August 2012

London, Portrait of a City

What I first noticed when opening this book was the mention "Captions written by Barry Miles" on the title-page. I thought this extraordinary and most appropriate (for it is often the captions that define our looking at photographs) and felt already determined to like this work - and I did and do!

The pics in this tome are not only by luminaries such as Eve Arnold, David Bailey, Cecil Beaton, Erwin Bischof, and Bill Brandt but mostly by anonymous photographers whose shots convinced me as much as the ones of their well-known colleagues, and sometimes more. 

Photographs by E.O. Hoppé

I learned, among lots of other things, that, in 1837, when Queen Victoria started her long reign, "London was the biggest city in the world by some distance, and the industrial city of the 19th century; it was described as a 'new system of living. Yet this was just the start ..."

London, Portrait of a City follows a chronological concept. The first chapter covers the time from 1837 to 1901 (The Monster City), the second 1902 to 1938 (Modern Times), the third 1939 to 1959 (The Consequences of War), the fourth 1960 to 1981 (The Party and the Morning After), and the fifth 1982 to the present, however not including the riots of August 2011.

In addition, you will find brief biographies of the photographers, a section called 'Recommended Viewing' that mentions movies from Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up to Richard Eyre's Notes of a Scandal, followed by 'Recommended Listening' (I'm happy to report that David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars made it on the list), and by 'Recommended Reading' that includes a tome by one of my favourite authors (J.G. Ballard) that I so far hadn't come across (The Drowned World).

London, Portrait of a City is not only a book with an amazing variety of photographs, it is also an intelligently composed book - just have a look at the double-page spread above (the sailors were photographed by Thurston Hopkins, the nude woman by Bill Brandt).

In sum: compelling photos abound that invite you to make fascinating discoveries, lots of them!

Reuel Golden
London, Portrait of a City
Taschen, Cologne 2012

Sunday, 12 August 2012

In den Wüsten der Erde

 Michael Martin, Jahrgang 1963, hat sich als Fotograf und Autor auf Wüsten spezialisiert. Seit seinem 17. Lebensjahr hat er 150 Wüstenreisen unternommen und darüber mehr als zwanzig Bücher veröffentlicht, lese ich im Klappentext. Seine Weltanschauung offenbart er im Vorwort: "Als einen unwiederbringlichen Verlust empfinde ich es, wenn traditionelle Kleidung durch europäische Altkleider ersetzt wird, wenn Gedichte, Lieder und Geschichten vergessen werden, wenn handwerkliche Fähigkeiten und ein verantwortungsvoller Umgang mit der Natur für immer verloren gehen." Ich selber sehe das etwas weniger eng, mich stört es manchmal überhaupt nicht, wenn gewisse Gedichte, Lieder und Geschichten vergessen werden. Und was die Traditionen angeht: ich bin nachgerade froh, dass wir da einiges haben hinter uns lassen können. Trotzdem: Michael Martins Grundhaltung ist mir sympathisch.

Wer etwas über fremde Kulturen erfahren will, soll seinen Hintern bewegen und in die Welt rausgehen. Tut er das, wird er möglicherweise zu ähnlichen Schlüssen kommen wie Michael Martin: "In den Zelten und Jurten der Nomaden wurde ich herzlich, vorurteilsfrei und selbstlos aufgenommen. Die in den Medien immer wieder beschriebenen Gräben zwischen den Kulturen empfand ich bei diesen Begegnungen nie als unüberwindbar."

Die Bilder in diesem Band sind toll, die Legenden dazu (wenn vorhanden) von der üblichen Einfaltslosigkeit, die für Fotobücher so recht eigentlich charakteristisch ist. Als Beispiel möge die wunderbar gelungene Aufnahme eines Jungen und eines Mädchens, das eine Taube mit ihren Händen umfasst (Seiten 96 und 97), dienen. Die Legende dazu lautet: "Kinder mit Taube". Aha. Hilfreicher wäre gewesen, dem Leser zu sagen, wann und wo und unter welchen Umständen das Foto zustande gekommen ist.

Inspirierter zeigt sich Michael Martin bei den Geschichten, die er erzählt. Wie er etwa in Mali, 1985 war das, von einer Blinddarmentzündung heimgesucht wurde und es dann, nach Besichtigung von zwei örtlichen Kliniken, vorzog, in München operiert zu werden. Oder wie er, 1987, mit seinem Wagen auf Schienen durch die Wüste fuhr.

Ganz erstaunt war ich, in diesem Band auch von einer Reise nach Island zu lesen - dass es Eiswüsten gibt, war mir nicht bekannt. Auch von edaphischen Wüsten hatte ich noch nie gehört: "Neben Trockenheit und Kälte gibt es aber noch eine dritte Ursache für Wüsten, nämlich die Beschaffenheit des Bodens. Solche Wüsten nennt man edaphische Wüsten. Dazu gehören Salzseen, die Lavawüsten im Hochland Islands oder die baumlose Kalkebene des Nullarbor Plain in Australien."

Fazit: ein auf vielfältige Weise (selbst ein Kapitel über Martins Kameraausrüstung fehlt nicht) anregendes Buch, das Lust macht, selber auf Entdeckungsreise zu gehen.

Michael Martin
30 Jahre Abenteuer
Unterwegs in den Wüsten der Erde
Malik / National Geographic
Piper Verlag, München 2012

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Eyes of War

Frederick Lennart Bentley  (United Kingdom, 1924)

"This book is made up of inescapable stories and unforgettable faces, which are largely unforgettable because those faces can no longer see anything thermselves", writes Cees Noteboom in his introduction. 

In 2004, Martin Roemers attended the D-Day commemoration in Normandy, France; he wanted to make portrait photographs of World War II veterans, one of these portraits was of Frederick Bentley whose story (blinded by a German grenade, left behind by his comrades, worked for thirty-three years as a mechanical engineer, inspecting machines by touch: "I had work, I married, and I had four children. I had a good life after the war") stayed with him and subsequently inspired this remarkable book.

It is not only the eyes that capture our attention, it is also the faces, faces that ressemble sculptures.

These men and women were photographed outside, sitting on a stool, against a black background. "A black background", writes Cees Noteboom, " is the same as no background at all, no distraction ...". Right, and so you look into faces that are images of a life. Some of them reminded me of death masks.

"It's easier to really look at someone in a photograph than in real life - no discomfort at meeting the other person's eye, no fear of being caught staring", writes A.M. Homes in 'The Mistress's Daughter'. I've always been very fond of this observation for it seemed so accurate. However, when looking into the faces of people who are blind I do sense, sometimes, a certain discomfort, it feels as if it is not right to look into their eyes.

Rudolf Söder (Germany, 1924)

Some of the portrayed have their eyes closed, others do not have eyes anymore. And because of that I seemed to ask myself more often than usual what was going through their minds. The brief texts that accompany the black-and-white photographs of The Eyes of War gave me a good idea of what the stories behind the pictures were. From Rudolf Söder I learn that he "didn't even want to be a soldier ... was sent to Russia", where fragments of an artillery grenade got into his eyes and blinded him.

Sieglinde Bartelsen (Germany, 1930)

Sieglinde Bartelsen was fourteen when she for the last time saw herself in the mirror. In November 1944, she became victim of a British bomb raid."The ophthalmologist told me that there was a hole in my retina and that I had to lie absolutely still. I needed an operation. An English ambulance took me to the hospital in Göttingen. The road was full of impact craters, which meant that I couldn't lie still. In the hospital, they weren't able to operate on my eye because it had been too badly damaged by the bumpy road."

A truly extraordinary tome!

Martin Roemers
The Eyes of War
Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2012

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Images from Copenhagen






Copyright @ Hans Durrer

These pictures were taken in the last week of June 2012.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Das BILD-Buch


Ein solch grossformatiges und schweres (11 Kilo zeigt meine Waage an) Buch hatte ich noch nie in Händen: Hardcover, 37,2 x 53 cm, 748 Seiten.

Über 700 Titelseiten, alle im Zeitungsformat, je eine Seite aus jedem Monat seit dem 24. Juni 1952, dem Gründungstag von BILD.

Hier eine Auswahl meiner Lieblingsüberschriften:
Das verdammte Geld machte meinen Mann zum Spion (31. Oktober 1968). 
Sex-Droge: Bein steif (24. November 1986).
Rezept für glückliche Ehen: ein bisschen schwindeln (13. Dezember 1986).
Honecker lebt, liest BILD, und ärgert sich (13. September 1989).
Macht das Handy Männer doch unfruchtbar? (25. Oktober 2006).

"Zuweilen reflektierten die Titelzeilen keine Realität mehr, sondern wurden kunstvoller Selbstzweck  - bis hin zur dadaistischen Lautmalerei", schreibt Stefan Aust in seinem Beitrag "Keine Atempause: 60 Jahre BILD". Beispiele gefällig? "Franzi, Franzi, wunderbar." "Guru Franz - meine Botschaft. 1. Kehrt um, liebt euch 2. Wir sind unsterblich 3. Lebt wie Brüder und Schwestern". "Brando frisst sich tot". "Naddels Pfui-TV, Kanzler tobt".

Ferdinand von Schirach hat auch einen Text beigesteuert ("Paternoster"). Darin erfährt man unter anderem, dass er nach Alpträumen zum Bücherschrank geht und in den alten Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts liest. Zudem zitiert er den Vorstandsvorsitzenden der Axel Springer AG, Mathias Döpfner, mit dem Satz: "Für die BILD-Zeitung gilt das Prinzip: Wer mit ihr im Aufzug nach oben fährt, der fährt auch mit ihr im Aufzug nach unten."

Laut Sebastian Turner ("Gefühlte Geschichte") ist es das Wechselspiel von Bild und Text, das die BILD-Zeitung ausmacht: "... die Text-Foto-Spannung lädt BILD auf. Gefühl kommt zum Bild erst durch das Wort und die Aufladung zwischen beiden. Als Axel Springer 'Bild' sagte, hatte er Spannung gemeint." Es lohnt, sich das vorliegende Werk mit diesem Gedanken im Kopf vorzunehmen.

Das BILD-Buch ist nicht zuletzt ein Zeitdokument. Das will nicht heissen, dass es beziehungsweise die BILD-Zeitung die jeweilige Zeit abbildet (das tut kein Buch und keine Zeitung), das will heissen, dass wir die jeweilige Zeit durch die BILD-Sicht zu sehen kriegen. Gleichzeitig jedoch, und in diesem Sinne ist dieses Buch auch Zeitdokument, können wir mitverfolgen, welche Ereignisse den damaligen Zeitungsverantwortlichen Wert schienen, ihrer Leserschaft mitgeteilt zu werden - dabei staunt man, wie vieles einem nicht oder nicht mehr präsent ist.

Pocken-Alarm in aller Welt (12. Januar 1962). 
US-Negerführer: Die schwarze Revolution hat begonnen (25. Juli 1967).
Es ist einfach herrlich! Die farbige Mattscheibe verzaubert alle (26. August 1967).
Ehebruch nicht mehr strafbar (31. Oktober 1968).

Was sind das eigentlich für Leute, die für BILD texten? Einer von ihnen ist Franz Josef Wagner, der bekennt: "Ich schreibe gern für BILD. Weil ich schreien darf, mich aufregen darf." Wenn dabei Sätze rauskommen wie "Wir sind Papst" ist das echt toll, bei Sätzen wie (in Sachen Guttenberg) "Wir finden die GUTT! Nörgler, Neider, Niederschreiber: Einfach mal die Klappe halten!" ist das hingegen mehr als bedenklich, aber eben auch eine treffende Selbstcharakterisierung.

Das BILD-Buch
Taschen, Köln 2012
ISBN 978-3-8365-3863-3

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Steve McCurry

End of June, I went to see an exhibition of Steve McCurry's photographs in Copenhagen. I do not recall a photo-exhibition that has impressed me more. This had not only to do with the photographs but also with the venue, a huge hall, divided into several smaller ones (Øksnehallen).

The Afghan girl with the green eyes, taken in 1984, is very probably McCurry's best known picture. At the Copenhagen exhibition, a video documentary about the search for the girl (nobody seemed to know who she is) was shown - despite press reports to the contrary, she has not been found. That is what I remember. Later on, however, I've read that McCurry claimed that she had indeed been found.

Steve McCurry/ Magnum Photos/ Agentur Focus

Many of the photographs in Steve McCurry's stern FOTOGRAFIE Heft 68 / 2012 were shown at the Copenhagen exhibition. I thought especially the colours extraordinary and was wondering whether these were colours actually found in real life or whether the pics were heavily photoshopped. stern-Artdirector Johannes Erler writes in the foreword: "Steve McCurry does the impossible. He bewitches us with colours in a way only nature and her elements otherwise do. We look at his photographs with a sense of amazement and wonder whether what we are seeing is actually real. But is has to be be. Otherwise these pictures would not exist". In regards to some of the pics in this tome, I'm still not sure ... but there is no doubt: these colours are truly stunning and superb.

Steve McCurry/ Magnum Photos/ Agentur Focus

"After a while I developed a certain method of working where I either got my shot quickly before I am noticed; or I hung around my subjects so long until they get bored or accostumed to me and continue about their usual routine", McCurry states. The latter must have been the case when he photographed the fishermen on stilts in Sri Lanka, a painting-like shot that to me, in regards to colours, seems almost too good to be true.

The photographs in this tome were taken in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Peru, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and New York, and they are accompanied by an informative essay by Jochen Siemens who, among other things, quotes McCurry's conviction that "you have to search for every single picture" for the simple reason that "pictures don't just walk past you". Good point indeed! And much more convincing than this one: "McCurry says that he could imagine all his pictures in black and white". Apart from the fact that I find this difficult to believe (on the other hand: what do I know of this man's imagination?), I'm not terribly sure what he wants to say with this for it is precisely the colours that make his pictures so special.

In sum: I love these photographs!
o warm to McCurry's state, I do warm to cCurry's statement: "I want to be part of a trad
PS:  stern FOTOGRAFIE Heft 68 / 2012 is accompanied by Talents - the booklet in which McCurry talks about Kitra Cahana, "who published her first picture of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip on the front page of the New York Times in 2004 - at the age of just 17". The photo below shows highschool seniors filming their friends during their weekly Fight Club.

Kitra Cahana / Reportage by Getty Images

Steve McCurry
stern FOTOGRAFIE Heft 68 / 2012