Nowadays photography is something that each of us is in touch with. In every pocket there is a camera in the form of a smartphone. In seconds, it's turned on and the image in front of us is sent to our friend on the other side of the world - or the one next to us. Thus, platforms like social media are constantly growing and capturing the everyday lives of people around the globe. We see others posing for the camera. We likewise pose to be seen by others.
With fine art photography, it's up to the artist to decide what he wants us to see - but also what he wants us to feel and understand. It is his choice what he tells us about the person or himself. Through art, a new level of meaning is added to photography. It not only conveys itself, but evokes emotions and associations. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the meaning and our relationship to the camera has changed and evolved over the years. Being photographed could serve a documentary function. A way to capture a current moment or represent a social interaction. It was, and still is, a way of self-expression. Today, the act of posing for the camera can go beyond that: It can influence or even determine our relationship with ourselves. In a world full of selfies, it can even call into question the person themselves.
About the Fine Art Photographs
Look! is an exhibition that combines all of this. It shows the spirit and the faces of our time. Seven authors from different countries show their works and open our eyes to cultures, identities and the question of reality. Lili Almog's works are proof of how our world has changed recently. We have become more distant, emotionally and physically. The portraits of masked women in a boarded up city have become a new symbol of the human condition. Michelle Sank's portraits are equally emotionally charged. They show how body language, performance, and clothing are means of personal expression. Each of them tells of a personality and becomes a metaphor for individuality and cultural context.
This is what Nelken's work also brings to our attention. In his narrative project about working women in rural Uganda, he combines the power of portraiture with the women's own stories to capture their individuality and perseverance. Here, too, the relationship with the camera is a kind of self-reflection. It is a representation of what we are or what we want to be. Part of that is the endless pressure for perfection as well. What if all of that falls away? What if a photograph captures just that kind of circumstance and overload? Are we still able to distinguish between real personality and an artificial doll? These are questions that Patty Caroll deals with by photographing mannequins in interiors full of decor and objects. The same is true for Kent Krugh, who combines X-ray films with photographs to create the final image of illuminated dolls. In a way, they represent the full nature of the human being - body, soul and spirit - perhaps resurrected. The visualization of full transparency is an attempt to show our innermost personality in images. And yet, it is the epitome of the physical surface, and poses anew the question of authenticity and artificiality.
The representation of ourselves determines the relationship with our body. Often it seems that the human body is considered as a kind of unwritten taboo, allowing only a kind of beauty that suggests perfection. In response, Alexei Mendelevich's photographs trigger a kind of discomfort and make pain visible. Likewise, artist Lutz Matzschke establishes a reconnection to our own bodies through the intact nature of Patagonia. Connecting our body with the environment and thus redefining it. Is this what defines and constitutes authenticity? In fact, it is not only our relationship to the camera that changes, but also the perception of ourselves.
About the artist
Lili Almog born 1961, Tel Aviv, lives and works in NYC and is renowned for her intimate spiritual portraits of women’s cultural identities around the world. Lili moved to New York in the mid 80’s and began her career as a photojournalist centering and developing her artistic focus on revealing the state of spiritual and cultural identity amongst the women influenced by western culture; using photography, video, and installations. Lili has been exhibited widely and is included in many museums’ permanent and private collections internationally. Her monographs include Bed Sequence; Perfect Intimacy; The Other Half of the Sky and Between Presence and Absence.
About her work
'FRONTLINE' portrays the dignified, humbled and haloed warriors of the pandemic battlefield within a boarded-up city in trauma. The diptychs reference the rubble of the demonstrations and the colourful clothing of the compassionate heroes and the mood that shifts from sadness and compassion to raw anger and violence.
In these troubled days, I find a commonality between the challenged spirituality of the veiled women and the brave spirit of the new subjects. FRONTLINE explores the veiled faces of these women who both beckon and warn us to keep our distance in this complicated and conflicted world. The portraits of the masked women in a boarded-up city have become a new metaphor for the human condition. Art allows us to pause, take a breath and reflect; the social implications are yet to come.
About the artist
Patty Caroll is known for her use of highly intense, saturated color photographs since the 1970's. After teaching photography for many years, she delights viewers with her playfule critique of home and excess in"Anonymous Women," a 4-part series of studio installations, addressing womena and their complicated relationships with domesticity. The photographs are exhibited in large scale, and were published as a monograph, Anonymous Women, in 2017 by Daylight Books, and as "Domestic Demise" in 2020 by Aint-Bad Books. The seires has been exhibited internationally, has won multiple awards, acknowledged as one of Photolucida's "Top 50" in 2014 and 2017, and has been featured in prestigious blogs and international magazines since 2014.
About her work
My work 'Anonymous Women' is about the entanglement of women and home, leading to the term "housewife". All the photographs are recreated interiors of rooms filled with décor and objects surrounding a solitary figure of a woman who is camouflaged and often only parts of her are visible. She is both a victim of her obsessions, activities and circumstances and the invisible creator of them; both satisfying and problematic, pathetic and humorous. Current identity politics do not recognise the invisible suburban women who are considered privileged but constrained by the perfection and expectations of earlier times. My inspiration has many sources: colourful vintage films, traditional still life paintings, decorating magazines, a suburban upbringing, the game Clue, Victorian writings, etc. My intention with this work is to draw attention to the invisible heroic women who quietly run a home, a family and often a career. The character symbolises so many women, regardless of culture or background, with roots in consumer culture and how we use things to provide continuity and tradition. While humour prevails in these narratives, the message behind them has darker implications about the role of women in all societies.
My wife is both the creator and the victim of her own possessions and obsessions. Her home has become a place of tragedy and danger, with scenes of hilarious and heartbreaking mishaps and horror. While humour prevails in these narrative images, the message behind them has darker implications about the role of women in all societies.
About the artist
Kent Krugh is a fine art photographer living and working in Cincinnati. His work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions both national and international and in major festivals including FotoFest in Houston and the Festival de la Luz in Buenos Aires. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors in both national and international print and portfolio competitions and has been a Photolucida Critical Mass Finalist. His work is held in various collections including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, and the Cincinnati Art Museum. A book of camera x-rays and essays by A.D. Coleman and Barbara Tannenbaum, Speciation: Still a Camera, was published in 2018 by Fraction Editions.
About his work
My mother collected dolls representing different cultures she visited during her lifelong travels and gave them to my daughters. As my daughters grew up, the dolls lost their meaning and were relegated to a box in my basement. Years later I came across them and wondered if they could be brought back to life. As the project grew and I began to exhibit some of the images, friends and collectors became fascinated with the dolls and other important representational objects they had stored in their cardboard boxes and offered them to see what secrets they might reveal through this process. The dolls were placed on an X-ray film and then irradiated with a beam of high-energy X-rays from a linear accelerator. The same type of radiation is used to treat cancer. The dolls were also photographed. These two images, X-ray and photo, were combined to create the final image. The object, now pictured from both the inside and the outside, appears to come alive in the composite image. In a way, these images attempt to represent the whole nature of the human being - body, soul and spirit - possibly resurrected.
About the Artist
Lutz Matschke was born in 1959 in Lomas de Zamora, Argentina. After studying at the International Center of Photography in New York, he graduated with Nancy Davenport and in photoesthetics with Juan Travnik in Buenos Aires. He has been a lecturer at universities in Buenos Aires and is now a teacher at universities in Schöneberg and Berlin. His works are represented in numerous collections, such as the Musuem of Modern Arts in Rio de Janeiro or the MMK in Buenos Aires. Today Lutz Matschke lives and works in Berlin and Patagonia.
About his work
I'm all face' manifests the body's relationship with intact nature as the reciprocity that the South American Tehuelche natives, called Pathagoni by Magellan in 1520, had with their environment.
The Argentine ornithologist William Henry Hudson mentioned this feeling in the Patagonian winds in his Idle days in Patagonia (1893), that it is "miserable to get wet in the rain, but pleasant to feel the rain on your face". "I am a whole face," said the naked American savage, to explain why he felt no discomfort from the gloomy wind that made his civilised fellow travellers shiver in their furs."(Hudson, William. Idle days in Patagonia, London 1936, Cap.13 The Plains of Patagonia, pp. 217-218).
Abel Posse also refers to Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's eight-year march from the Florida peninsula to the seven sacred cities of Mexico: "Our greatest weapon, our identification with the spirit of this land and with the custom of being human of these peoples, was our nakedness..... In this way we saw secret physical powers reborn within us. Our skin wore away and we changed it with the seasons, as snakes do. The soles of our feet grew like pliable soles and our nails grew stronger until they approached the original animal claw." (Posse, Abel. El largo atardecer del caminante (The walker's long evening). Barcelona : Plaza & Janes, 1992). These analogue self-portraits, taken in the former home of atek a chüwach a künna (people on the edge of the mountains), are ultimately a secret and wild solo seduction game between me and my analogue 6x6 Rolleiflex camera. I don't know if they are a misconception of myself or an ironic evocation of myself, but it is a game that gives me endless pleasure.
About the artist
2021 - “PEP new talents 2020”, B-Part Exhibition Gallery, Berlin, Germany
2019 – “Weariness” Fotogalleri Vasli Souza, Malmö, Sweden
2019 - Top 10 Photographers of the World (nominee), Sente•Antu, China
2018 – “Manipulation”, Warsaw Photo Days
2018 - DongGang International Photo Festival (laureate), South Korea
2018 - MoBY Museum, Bat Yam, Israel.
2016 - Benaki Museum, the main exhibition programme, Athens, Greece.
2015 – Nikon Photo Contest winner, 2nd place, Tokyo.
2011 - “Rodina”, Piramida Gallery, Haifa, Israel
2010 –“Facing fear”, Gallery of Arts in Korca and National Gallery of Arts in Tirana, Albania
2009 - Aktives Museum Spiegelgasse für Deutsch-Jüdische Geschichte, Wiesbaden.
2009- Japan Media Arts Festival, "Outside", Excellence Prize, Art Division, The National Art Center, Tokyo
About his work
We are surrounded by a vast amount of different visual information in which there is a routine beatification and imitation of the aesthetic practice of the past. Our sensitivity to recognise pain and suffering in the environment has been dulled, they are almost invisible to be easily captured. For me, photography is confronted with a deficit of ordinary, everyday diversity. I am looking for a new form to establish and speak communication, as photography is constantly changing and crossing a new pain threshold as the world changes. I am leaning more and more towards the view that in photography the only document that can contain the feeling of the real is a pain created by a range of emotions and a conflict in the frame. in my work, distortion is used as trauma, a pain that becomes an open wound in still images. The uncomfortable situation and position of the body takes away the sense of security, certainty, makes things more vulnerable and allows them to open up.
It often seems that the human body is seen as a kind of unwritten taboo, a point where cultural and social layers intersect under the guise of a certain mood of erotic romance and stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity. It seems that all our feelings are repressed into a superficial façade that only suggests a kind of beauty to perfection. My desire is to create a different model that goes against the ideas of popular modern beauty and creates a space where imperfection is actually perfection.
About the Artist
Michelle Sank is a documentary photographer whose work explores contemporary social issues. Her photographs have been exhibited and published extensively worldwide. Her images are held in private and public collections to include Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, Societe Jersiaise and Guernsey Museum, Chanel Islands, Southeast Museum of Photography, Florida, Museum of Youth Culture, UK and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. She has undertaken numerous commissions for prominent galleries and magazines in Europe and the USA and has won awards in prestigious competitions such at the Taylor Wessing Prize, National Portrait Gallery, UK, The British Journal of Photography,Lens Culture, IPA and KPLA International photographic awards. She has four published books to date.
About her Work
Between 2016 and 2018, I was commissioned by Multistory to document the diversity of young people and their lives in the Black Country, UK. I was interested in how cultural and social values are expressed within the ethnically diverse communities living there and how the emphasis on body image, performance and dress is a means of personal expression. I was also fascinated by how these rituals often mark a socially recognised transition to adulthood and responsibility, and how these rites of passage may differ from male to female. The subjects were photographed in their bedrooms so that the objects and decorations within became metaphors for their individuality and cultural contexts. The accompanying publication, My.Self, includes interviews with some of the participants in addition to the portraits.
About the Artist
Dan Nelken was born in Tel Aviv and immigrated to the U.S with his family. By the time he was 11-years old, Nelken had lived in four countries with three different languages. As a result, he developed an innate understanding of being "the other," struggling to adapt to new circumstances. He received his undergraduate degree from Pratt Institute. As a documentary photographer, he is known for his portrait work of those outside society's mainstream. His portraits aspire to accentuate individuality while acknowledging the importance of group behaviors, habits, and rituals. Nelken has received many awards and recognition for his HeadStrong project and earlier for Till The Cows Come Home: County Fair Portraits. His work has been published and exhibited widely and is in both public and private collections.
About his work
HeadStrong is an ongoing photographic and storytelling project focusing on working women in rural Uganda. These women are at a critical crossroads in their agrarian society. Emerging from a history of war and economic uncertainty, women are the tipping point of a future with more possibilities for their gender and offspring. As their accompanying stories reveal, many are hampered by lack of education and opportunities for themselves and their children. Yet, most have hope.
During four trips to Uganda as a volunteer, I interacted with many women in rural areas. Impressed by the women’s work ethic, poise, sense of humor, and resilience, I initially embarked on this project for esthetic reasons: a desire to showcase their personas in Uganda’s natural light. As this project progressed, I realized that a broader community should hear their stories.
Because Uganda has one of the world’s fastest-growing and youngest populations (15.9 years median age), women’s roles are critical to ensuring economic, intellectual and societal success in the future. Childrearing and domestic tasks are almost entirely the responsibility of women; in rural communities, women are often the family’s primary wage earners. These facts directly impact the lives of women.
As a life-long professional portrait photographer, I chose to combine the power of portraiture with the women’s own stories to portray their individuality and endurance. Aware of my outsider status and insufficient knowledge of Ugandan society, I partnered with Beatrice Lamwaka, an award-winning Ugandan author, who brings an essential East African female viewpoint to this project. Lamwaka interviewed the women and then wrote a biographical narrative, which includes aspirations, to accompany her portrait. These texts are an integral part of Headstrong.
Each woman expressed herself through personal choices of work clothing and accessories. Their direct gaze powerfully conveys their sense of self and ownership in presenting themselves to the viewer. I chose mosquito netting to physically separate the women from their chaotic surroundings while alluding to the region’s paucity of medical care.
The titles include documentary details that provide context for the portraits.
Contemporary photography between staging and performance
June 27–August 28, 2021
Art Galerie Siegen, Germany
Participating artists: Lili Almog, Patty Caroll, Kent Krugh, Lutz Matschke, Alexej Mendelevich, Dan Nelken, Michelle Sank
Art Galerie Siegen
Mo–Friday 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 10 am – 4pm
Thank you to Helga Kellner for the possibility to continue the curated exhibitions by Thomas Kellner at her place and very special thank you to all participants for the trust and cooperation into this exhibition.