SSC: Windows

I’m starting off this subject’s blog posts by discussing a favourite photographer of mine: Andreas Gursky.  I remember studying his work for an assignment in high school so seeing him on a third year uni lecture slide was a bit of a blast to the past.  Gursky is a German photographer known for his large-scale landscape and architecture photographic compositions.

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Many of Gursky’s works are beautifully composed of a large quantity of subjects that are placed together to create a bigger, structured piece.  What I mean by this is that there are two ways of looking at his work – as the big picture, the overall neat, aesthetically pleasing composition; or individually moving your eyes to all the interesting sections of the photograph.  In the image above (Mayday V, 2006), you can see the entire building as a whole, or you can look in each and every window.  (And this is where Screen and Sound’s themes of window and frame come in.)

Although I honestly don’t one hundred percent understand the concept (or the importance of the concept, for that matter), I believe his images are both windows and frames.  This photograph in particular is framed by black above and below, so we are looking at what is in the frame – the artificial, very obviously artistically constructed building.  At the same time, we’re looking through the many windows in the building and seeing genuine instances of life.  We see people standing, sitting, talking, moving – living their lives as we view this still moment of time.

Now a point that we discussed in class is that whatever is beyond a window is ‘real’, and what is inside a frame is ‘fake’.  We believe photography to represent a certain truth – especially when it depicts people, places and objects of the real world.  So are we supposed to look at Gursky’s work and see reality within the windows?  I believe there is a certain amount of truth beyond the windows, however all I can think about is the time and effort that went into setting up the photo this way.  Sure, what’s behind the windows are real people doing real things (and what is art if not a representation of real life?), but they would all be positioned so nicely if it weren’t for Gursky and his camera.

So despite the point that the actual building in the photo had four levels, and it was later edited together to appear like 18 levels, makes me feel like we’ve been lied to.  But I suppose that’s much beyond the point.  (When you question what’s real and what’s not real for too long it starts to get to you.)  If it’s a window in a frame, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much truth is beyond it.  Regardless, Gursky gives us a lot to look at through his windows.

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