Visit to Frankfurt am Main

Posted on July 18, 2012


I have just returned from a visit to Frankfurt, where I competed in an Ironman triathlon…the race went as well as I could hope for as I don’t think that I was at peak fitness….too much photography!! (I finished in 12 hours 44 mins) Whilst I was in Frankfurt I had a break from the portraiture I have been focused on for the last few months.  I spent some time  walking around with my rangefinder trying to capture my impressions of the city.

I also had an chance to visit the Museum fur Moderne Kunst which was staging a photography exhibition Fotographie Total . The exhibition included work by  Jeff Wall, Thomas Ruff, Wolfgang Tillmans and Thomas Demand, as well as important representatives of artistic photojournalism such as Paul Almasy, Barbara Klemm and Anja Niedringhaus.

I was particularly struck by the huge photographs by Thomas Demand, the ingenuity of Wolfgang Tillman’s gallery display and the fantastic backlit images by Jeff Wall. Each of these showed how photography in a gallery setting can make a huge and intriguing impression.

Demand’s photographs were all from the series Yellowcake (2007). These pictures show the Embassy of Niger in Rome, the site of a burglary in which stationary paper was stolen that subsequenty has been used for forged contracts, which served US intelligence services as evidence to support the Iraq War. Demand gained access to the embassy and snapped off a few mobile phone photographs – his work usually starts with a found image of an ‘infamous’ location. From the mobile phone images  he constructed lifelike cardboard and paper sculptures of the embassy , which he then photographed with a large format camera. The resulting photographs were printed very large. In the case of this exhibition they were shown in a specially created area which represented the inside of an embassy. The photographs were visually imposing and highly intriguing, when one knows what they are meant to represent. Demand is challenging our belief in the reality of photographic images – his works look real but in fact are photographs of sculptures which in turn were made from photographs!!! With this series he is also inviting us to construct a mental narrative of what we think might have happened and given the modern day fascination of knowing everything about everything we all (or certainly, I) willingly join in. There is an interesting article on the work published by Freize Magazine here .

Wolfgang Tilmans works were colour photographs of apparently banal objects and situations – a flower , a tukan perched on its feeding bowl,  a plant by a window and suchlike. One is certainly left wondering what the significance of this selection of items is all about – even more so given that Tilmans has chosen to display them in an installation with various sizes of photographs and no obvious structure for their arrangement. Here is a photograph of part of the installation:

Wolfgang Tilmans Installation, Museum fur Moderne Kunst Frankfurt

What was also interesting was the way Tilmans has chosen to hang the photographs. The large imposing prints are suspended from string attached to bulldog clips  which have also been used to attach to the bottom of the photographs to weight them down. He seems to be making a statement about the disposable nature of photographic imagery in the post modern world. Unlike some of Tilmans’ work which I have seen, the photographs are technically of a very high standard – they are not the ‘snapshot’ images which originally characterised his style. Tilmans is a photographer/artist who is very hard to pin down!!

Jeff Wall had several of his large backlit photographs on display. Wall’s images are very large. They appear to be documentary but in fact are reconstructions of scenes made by using actors. They are allegorical stories about the nature of modern life. The very large format makes them very accessible – one can relate to the scenes  as one does to real life and curiously as one knows that they are reconstructions one is more inclined to look for the moral of the story! The visual impact of the photographs is phenomenal. Storyteller is a photograph which I have seen in books but in real life it is visually imposing and much more intriguing. There is a very useful article with photographs on MOMA’s website.

The exhibition was huge and I only had time for an afternoon’s visit, which perhaps explains why I have focused on well known international photographer/artists. Well worth a visit for anyone travelling to Frankfurt.

So to my own photographic efforts. Below is a slideshow of Main-hattan –  which depicts my impressions of Frankfurt, which is the financial centre of Germany and the Eurozone. I will allow those viewing the photographs to form their own judgements about the place. The photographs are in black and white and are in what I would consider an expressive personal documentary style.