Thomas Struth is a famous German art photographer. I say art photographer as his photographs look documentary, but they are not. But then I am not sure what documentary is either. Being a scientist I do not believe in a neutral observer, so I am not sure about documentary work. Perhaps Google Earth is objective.
Struth has recently completed some photographic series in Israel and some of them are on show at the Marion Goodman Gallery in London. Last night, Tuesday, the artist was also present for an artists talk, so I went along. I did not really know his work so I came to it with little idea.
At first I did not like them much. I had been told that he does not take a point of view (political) merely capturing what he sees. I did not believe this as everybody has a point of view, they like something, they don’t like something. In his talk he contradicted this assumption that is held by curators and others and said of course you make choices, you choose what to photograph, what angle to use, when to take it as the light plays a big part in telling the picture. He was a very good speaker. I still was not sure about the photographs, though. I thought they were very editorial, very opinionated. But in the night I thought about them some more.
They have a great space to them, they spill out into the room as if you are part of them. He said that he had become a photographer because he did not have the patience to paint. But his images look like they have taken ages to photograph, as if he stood there for months with the shutter open, even though it is obvious he didn’t- they are all crisp and clear and of one moment. But they have a stillness about them, an absence, maybe.
I still think they are a point of view, his and therefore and imbued with his beliefs and history. You cannot fail to bring yourself to your work. The photos of interiors and the ones of machinery or laboratories did not hold me. But, I found a great beauty in the landscape photographs. They had a classism about them. A greatness of view. Definitely not objective; very subjective, selected, edited, his view. But how could it be otherwise?
Worth a trip.