Sunday, 19 April 2009

German Architectural Photography Now

Seven photographers and one famous photographic couple make "Reconstructing Space: Architecture in Recent German Photography" at the Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Square, London a tasty collection. I'm not predisposed to savor this exhibition because all but one of the photographers indulge in what I call the Ezra Stoller Syndrome--unpopulated pictures, exacerbating the deplorable trend in modern architecture to create walk through sculptures rather than habitable fully functioning human environments.

Not that all photography of built environments must be populated: Susanne Bruegger's suite of four large format sky views of an urban neighborhood analyzes relationships among buildings and open land from a helicopter or tv tower angle. One is reminded of war damage reconnaissance photos. And indeed the juxtaposition of delicious old Jugendstil apartments and business block cheek by jowl with depressingly bland plattenbau post war construction remind you indeed of the architectural costs of war.

And if you wondered what Bernd and Hilla Becher would shoot when and if they ran out of their marvelously idiosyncratic water towers, wonder no more: here are twenty-one industrial facades, head on, no fancy angles, sharp focus to let your eye relish the singularities of two centuries of factory buildings. Most are Wilhemine, with bricks simulating elegance in craggy low budget decoration. But there's a quirky Bauhausey facade with a lot of symmetrically deployed glass and a fine Jugendstil front.

One doesn't demand from the Bechers anything more (or less) than an unendingly roving eye. They are the Eugene Atgets of industrialization. One is reminded of the French pioneer's insistence to Man Ray that he was not an artist, only a reporter.

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