Thursday, February 03, 2005

1964, 2005: Photography's Lives

I hear Gerhard Richter is unfashionable these days.

Here's Richter writing about his Photo Pictures (a name he used for his paintings made from found snapshot photography).

“For a time I worked as a photographic laboratory assistant: the masses of photographs that passed through the bath of developer every day may well have caused a lasting trauma.”

With photoblogs, Fickrs, and etc., we can all have this experience. Given that his Photo Pictures formed such a productive stage in his career, I think we can assume that by "trauma," Richter means a formative event. The kind that haunts and motivates us.

So, but, why create paintings from photographs? Aren't the photos self-sufficient? “Perhaps because I’m sorry for the photograph, because it has such a miserable existence even though it is such a perfect picture, I would like to make it valid, make it visible.” He writes here in 1964-5.

I wonder if he means, a miserable life cooped up in photo albums, rarely seen, badly archived, eventually thrown out or put into even deeper storage, and always secretly reviled when shown to hapless friends and family. Well, no longer. I think, had Richter's Photo Pictures never happened, the tactic of creating paintings from snapshot photos would, today, be very differently resonant. A fact which, if true, says a lot about the changed social life of photographs.

Both quotes from Richter, G. “Notes, 1964-1965” in Daily Practice 33, pp. 35-36.
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