2020: The Grand Canyon catalog

Thomas Kellner - The Big Picture

For many years, Tthe fine art photographer has been working with architecture and sights from all over the world, but in this work, created in the summer of 2014, he turns to one of the most breathtaking landscape motifs on earth: the Grand Canyon. 
Kellner photographs the subject from several perspectives, thus breaking it down into its individual parts. He then assembles the contact sheets in their original size to create an overall composition. Since 1997 he has been using exclusively the prints of the contact sheets for his highly individual compositions. The distinguishing feature of this montage technique are the horizontal black stripes between the individual rows of pictures, which represent the consecutive numbering of the negative. Thus, the image dimension is also derived from the number of films used in the creation process, since it is a collage with 1:1 contact prints.

The Big Picture consists of 60 films of 36 shots each, i.e. 2160 pictures taken in succession. The work defies the brown, red and green color elements of the rocks of the Grand Canyon and thus offers an overwhelming view. Viewed from close up, it shows the landscape in detail, and viewed from a distance, the close-ups create a coherent panorama.

Kellner transfers the international current of deconstructivism from architecture to photography by photographing buildings, people and landscapes, fragmenting them and then assembling them into a heterogeneous conglomerate of forms. In his photograph of the Grand Canyon, however, he refrains from playfully intervening in the composition of the individual parts. Kellner depicts this incredible landscape as it is and lets it speak for itself.

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The Big Picture

Other Editions of The Big Picture

The Big Picture is available in german, english and as a special edition. This special edition comes with an original print.

Images of the special edition

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Details of this Grand Canyon panorama monograph

Title: The Big Picture
Editor: Oliver Seltmann
Author: Freddy Langer
Photographer: Thomas Kellner
Content: 26 pages, 2 plates
Size: 24,5 x 30,5 cm
Language(s): German / English
Publisher: seltmann + söhne
ISBN: 9783946688990 /  9783946688969
Release Date: October 15, 2020
Price: 49,90 Euros
Edition of the special edition: 100
Price of the special edition: with print 90 Euros (without passe-partout, without easel or frame)

Some bites out of the essay by Freddy Langer

"Those poor people. There they were, standing in front of a canyon of which others would later say it was the most beautiful spot on Earth. Magnificent. Tremendous. Stunning. Nevertheless, this deep rift across the landscape was just simply in their way when they were the first non-indigenous people to stand before the depths of the Grand Canyon in 1540. Nothing was further away from this small group of Spanish conquistadors’ minds than to indulge in the beauty of nature. They needed water. Yet the river, that roared by a mile away in the deep — just a trickle if you were looking from up above — could not be reached. For three days, Captain Don García López de Cárdenas and his soldiers looked for a way down into the canyon. It was to no avail. Disappointed, they turned back. Shortly before they almost died of thirst.

Astonishment and fear are mixed in his romanticizing descriptions combined with scientifically exact particulars. There is talk of crevasses that seem as the doors to hell from their unearthly appearance; and yet, the party would pause time and again ”full of rapture and delight“ in viewing ”these wonderful formations“ through which the Colorado River and its tributaries wound their way.

All at once, there is the feeling of obsession for new gorges and rock basins, being driven in search of even more of those bizarre-shaped towers and still more of those so surreal colored rocks. Even without one single plant, these rock deserts can hardly be surpassed in their multitude of colors. Iron that oxidizes or even rusts in the rock colors, the cliffs black, brown, red, pink and yellow — and when they connect visually with manganese or copper, then the palette is widened by purple and green hues. 

In these fairy-tale gardens, it is easy to lose yourself in images, rocks and thoughts. If the stone formations are initially compared to castles and Gothic cathedrals, shortly thereafter, they become fabulous animals and legendary characters. Not even those who were immune to any type of witchcraft could withdraw from the power of their magic as Edward Abbey, probably the most renowned writer of the American Southwest, put it when he described the landscapes of rock terraces and mesas. These canyons — so it is said — are filled to the rim with silence. Often, you cannot get rid of the feeling of being the first person that ever entered this area.

The fact that Thomas Kellner can make the world rock is well known from his architecture artwork. The viewer thinks that by dismantling a building into individual pieces of an image and by tilting the camera several times, the most famous sights in the world — from the Eiffel Tower to the Brooklyn Bridge — begin to rock, to sway, even to dance. Architecture is turned upside down. And the less restraint Thomas Kellner uses in dismantling the building, the more daring the descriptions became for his artwork — from cubist orchestration to radical constructionism, deconstructionism and reconstructionism to, as termed by Irina Chmyreva, analytic synthetism.

Nevertheless, Kellner displayed humbleness at the Grand Canyon. There, he became a total servant to the landscape and depicted it without any playful interventions. Totally concentrated. Totally serious. And, we have no other choice but to view the individual image pieces in silent veneration until we too start to sway."

Langer, Freddy. 2020. “Grand Canyon.” In The Big Picture, edited by Oliver Seltmann. Lüdenscheid, Berlin: Seltmann+Söhne

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"The large format allows us to immerse ourselves in the image. And it allows us to savor the feeling of being small, of our own insignificance in the face of the immeasurable landscape space. Like the Spaniards almost 500 years ago, we are now stunned by the gorge. But we have learned to savor this feeling with delight."

Freddy Langer: Ein Bild, das uns zum wanken bringt; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; 19.10.2020.