Andreas Gursky born in 1955 is a famous and influential German photographer, normally employing a large scale architecture and landscape subject in colour. Born in Leipzig but growing up in Düsseldorf Gursky studied at Folkwangshule and then later at Kunstakadeimie in Düsseldorf where he studied under Hilla and Bernd Becher, a photography pair best known for their involvement and participation in the New Topographic Movement in New York during the mid 1970’s. It was this involvement with Hilla and Bernd that truly inspired Gursky’s photography the most, along side of British landscape photographer John Davies. He maintained the New Topographic photographers use of formal composition, lines on horizontal and vertical axis that to the unappreciative would look mundane but to understand would open up further a further understanding of narrative, beauty and brilliance.
Until the 90’s Andreas Gursky did not use any form of digital image manipulation, however since then his work has shown a high use and by his own admission a reliance on editing. However his basis and reasoning to the manipulation of his photography is not to improve upon or add to what he is photographing but to focus the viewer away from the man made elements of certain landscapes and onto the specific elements of beauty that form the basis of his work while also he aims to focus the viewer on the smallest details of his photographs and individual elements that create the overall piece without losing the wider view. It is not just the single photographs he edited from, often taking anything from 2 to 12 images layering them and combining them to create images of high intensity and interest, namely ‘Stockholders Meeting’ in 2001 and again in 2007 in ‘F1 Boxenstopp’ both this exemplary examples show high intensity human activity in spaces that are controlled.
The style of Gursky’s work interests me greatly, his ability to capture instantly recognisable subjects and locations but with a sting abstract appearance leaves the viewer further intrigued and interested in the image as they are often from a perspective not normally appreciated or considered by everyone which then furthers the abstract elements and the viewers interest.
This first and likely most famous of Gursky’s work is Rhein II, the most expensive photograph ever sold (£2.7Million). It is a solid example of my early point, depicting his work as both instantly recognisable yet abstract and fascinating. The numerous horizontals throughout the image not on create both the instant landscape feel but also the abstract repetition that gives the viewer a memorable feeling. In this image Gursky has used his typical manipulation techniques in removing both people and buildings, to explain this he said,
“Paradoxically, this view of the Rhine cannot be obtained in situ, a fictitious construction was required to provide an accurate image of a modern river.”
A statement which I both understand and appreciate in that the removal of these elements has enabled the artist to show and the viewer to appreciate the natural beauty of the Rhine however his choice of ‘modern river’ intrigues me as the result of the editing we are left with quite rightly a beautiful and memorable landscape but one that represents the river of the past, without the urbanisation.
This second work of Andreas Gursky, taken in 2007 shows two Formula 1 teams during a pitstop. The whole image is really two, both teams being photographed separately and in there respective boxes. This is a fascinating image capturing an intense moment of human activity and technology. The detail he is able to achieve in this image is extremely interesting, and when I look closely at it it is similar to a ‘Wheres Wally’ book, I’m constantly being drawn around the image, interested in each aspect and each persons stance, and seemingly ready movement with the composition being wonderful rounded off with the horizontal line of spectators above the action. This photograph is a wonderful example of what can be achieved with image manipulation, the use of two teams give a much more interesting image, the ability to compare and the added activity in what is a race shows two teams neck and neck with a large number of people working against each other. The atmosphere and excitement in this image is infectious in the way the viewer enjoys it.