Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Alpine Landscape Pictures

Only after he had finished his studies in fine art photography, Olaf Unverzart, who grew up not far from the mountains but without any particular interest in them ("The Alps were first and foremost what you had to cross once a year to reach the Adriatic"), began to discover the Alps as a motif for his photographic endeavours. I can easily relate to that for often we for a long time do not see what is right in front of us. But once we do, and are fascinated by it, it can become an obsession, not one that we suffer from, but one that we feel uplifted by.
@ Olaf Unverzart

The introduction to this impressive tome comes, given that this is a book full of pictures, with this rather strange title "A Life Outside The Pictures". Written by Tom Dauer, it tells the story of his climb of the Piz Badile. It is a strong and personal text that however, like almost every other text that deals with photographs, doesn't fail to mention that pictures tell stories  – and that simply is bull, not only because pictures can't talk but mainly because this metaphorical way of putting it obscures the fact that what we see in a picture we bring to it.

Nevertheless, as I've said, Tom Dauer contributed a convincing text. "Climbing a mountain such as the north face of Piz Badile is life under a magnifying glass. What is important becomes bigger and clearer. Everything else is beside the point. Except when the unexpected happens. The uncontrollable, the wild, the untamable. Anything that lies outside the pictures."
@ Olaf Unverzart

Another text ("On Heavy Bags, Slow Pictures, and the Physical Experience of the Landscape") by the curator Sophia Greiff – what the hell are "slow pictures"? – provides a historical account of Alpine photography. "... the luggage of the pioneers of Alpine photography contained not only heavy, bulky, wooden box cameras but also various lenses and tripods, and even a portable darkroom, chemicals, and tanks – basically an entire photographic laboratory." Amazing, isn't it? Similarly amazing is the fact that Olaf Unverzart embarks on his photographic expeditions into the Alps with a plate camera and around twenty kilos of luggage. Which tells us something about the spirit in which Unverzart takes his pictures. "Good weather is the precondition of going, bad weather is better for my pictures. So I can only lose – or never – depending on how you see it."

When spending time with the majestic landscapes (or more precisely: with how Unverzart framed them) in this superbly done book, a quote by Francis Bacon (that was pinned to Dorothea Lange's darkroom door) comes to mind: "The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention."

Olaf Unverzart
Prestel Verlag, München - London - New York 2014

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