Jochen Lempert

Posted on April 11, 2014


I was struck by a recent post that Sharon made on the OCA blog. It is about Jochen Lempert, a photographer who has  been shortlisted for the 2014 Deutsche Borse Photography Prize. Click on photograph below to see Sharon’s article.

Jochen l

OCA Website Jochen Lempert

A paragraph at the end of Sharon’s article particularly attracted my attention because of its relevance to my own work.

His work is often referenced alongside post modernist authors, such as Italo Calvino, likening his use of photography to their use of disparate and fractured texts. Lempert’s images operate in much the same way. By placing seeminly arbitrary texts (photographs) together associations are made in the mind of the viewer that cannot be predicted or ascertained. The work takes on a life of it’s own as combinations and narratives play out depending on the individual mind of the viewer.

For example, my reading of this triptych will probably be completely different from yours and that is the strength of this work – it transcends experience and knowledge and draws upon personal histories. That could be said of any photograph of course but the confidence by which Lempert presents his work, seemingly unresolved and fractured, reveals his belief in the open text and the power of the metonym. So much so that the work speaks for itself and he doesn’t feel the need to explain it away.

This seems very pertinent for my own work. In my case I am juxtaposing a photograph with a text and my desire is that the image/text ‘takes on a life of its own….depending on the individual mind of the viewer’. I have just started reading Umberto Eco’s seminal book ‘The Open Work’, which is highly relevant to this concept. Eco refers to art/literature/music which encourages a multiplicity of meanings by different viewers and by the same viewer at different times as ‘Open Work’.

Eco accepts that in all works of art/literature/music ‘the individual addressee is bound to supply his own existential credentials, the sense conditioning which is peculiarly his own, a defined culture, a set of tastes, personal inclinations and prejudices’. But he proposes that there are works which are ‘open in a more tangible sense. In primitive terms we can say that they are quite literally unfinished’ (Eco, 1989, pp 3-4). He suggests that the artist/author/composer hands them on to the viewer/reader/performer like a construction kit for them to make of what they will.

I need to spend more time reading Eco and thinking about the issues he raises.


Eco U. (1989) The Open Work Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press