Contemporary art and photography in artPublications

Amateur Photography, 2000

David Clark: Demolition Man, an interview with Thomas Kellner in: Amateur Photographer, London, Great Britain, 6/2000

Clark, D., 2000. Technique File. Demolition Man. In: Amateur Photographer 2000, 3 June 2000. pp. 31-34.


Thomas Kellner has spent the past three years taking apart famous buildings in Paris and Berlin. Now he's turned his attention to London, as David Clark reports.

Millions of Tourists flock to London to see the sights, including the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, as well as newer landmarks, such as the London Eye and Canary Wharf. However, German photographer and artist Thomas Kellner seems intent on taking them apart. His unique interpretations of famous buildings make them look as you've never seen them before. Kellner's technique takes the constituent elements of a building and rearranges them into whatever shape he wants. However, look closely and you'll see that these 'deconstructions' have frame numbers and film names splitting the individual pictures. They are, in fact, contact sheets - but instead of being a stage on the way to making prints from the negatives, these sheets themselves are the finished pictures. Taking his inspiration from the Cubist painter Robert Delauney, Kellner started his 'deconstructions' in 1997 with a black & white contact sheet featuring shots of the Eiffel Tower. Since then he's photographed a number of famous sites. He chooses well-known buildings mainly because people, especially tourists, spend a lot of time photographing them. 'These are places of mass photography where people really waste film,' he says, laughing. 'Whenever 1 visit a new country I create my deconstructions to say 'This is an over-photographed building". Don't waste more time or materials on it!' Kellners trips are carefully planned. He looks at tourist guides to pick the buildings he wants to photograph and, due to limited time and funds, he has to work quickly. 'l can't wait a week for the perfect picture/ he says. 'l have to finance these trips myself and its very expensive’. He examines maps to see which directions the most popular buildings face, to determine what time of day its best to photograph them. When preparing to shoot, he selects a viewpoint and determines how he's going to approach it. On a piece of paper he sketches out exactly how many frames he wants to use, what to include in each frame and which lens to use (he carries lenses that cover focal lengths from 20mm to 300mm, plus converters). Finally, he uses a light meter to determine the best exposure for the whole building and uses that setting for all the shots, to keep the tone the same across the contact sheet. Kellner's approach to the whole process is very disciplined. 'These are all straight contact prints he says. 'l only take one roll per building and there's no faking. I don't take a second roll and substitute pictures' The resulting 'deconstructions' are clever slant on tourist photography. But aside from his dig at tourism, Kellner has a more irreverent reason for taking buildings apart. 'l also do it , because it is such a lot of fun,' he adds gleefully.

(David Clark from an interview with Thomas Kellner in: Amateur Photographer, London, Great Britain, 6/2000)

>>> London Eye 1999 in construction