kaykaykay

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by medform-norm, Jan 21, 2006.

  1. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    That's not only what Lucky Luke's dog Rataplan always said in the Belgian comic series from my childhood, it's also the name of the website of a German photographer who regularly posts on the german large format forum. Here's the link to his personal website.

    I quite like some of his work, espcially his sense of place and his use of color. Being European/German, his work feels a lot closer to home that lots of the stuff I see here in the galleries. That's not a critique of your work (some of which I obviously like), just a result from living in a different aesthetic universe. I wondered how this -I may say- 'typically German' work affects the non-Europeans present here (the majority). It could well be that it leaves you completely cold, that you find it too distant - something I've heard people say about other German photogs. So have it out and show me the vast and wide oceans that lie between our differences in taste and vision.
     
  2. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    OK, I'll get the ball rolling.

    I find them empty of the photographers soul. Then again, maybe that's what he's going for - dispassionate recordings of place. They wouldn't (for me) stand out from a wall of commercial real estate listing photographs, except for their possible technical superiority.

    Murray
     
  3. Mick Fagan

    Mick Fagan Subscriber

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    Having just returned from Germany two weeks ago, and having visited the country about 15 times, also being married to a German, I have some idea of photography in that country.

    I don't think the photographer is mainstream German, the motive behind the pictures appears to be technical brilliance first, content second. Whilst some people may think German people are only interested in technical brilliance first and formost, I find on the whole, they are as motivated as anyone about the content first, with technical stuff only needing sufficient relevance to show the picture.

    My late father in-law, who was a photographer in the German army on the Russian front, was always telling me that content was first and technical things were second.

    However I think the technique shown with the moving cars being ghost like, is very interesting. It's given me an idea or two.

    I wouldn't put this photographers style on my must see list, but I would see this work if it was on my way somewhere.

    Mick.
     
  4. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    Interesting, I particularily liked: http://www.kaykaykay.net/bilder/eon1.jpg I'm not so sure that what is different here is vision, as much as what is being viewed. Perhaps it might be helpful for us clinging to the edge of the alternate continent if you could articulate what, from a European perspective, you perceive differentiates "european" approaches to landscape. Clearly the landscape is different but the same might be said of Maine and California. What I'm wondering is, are there unified attributes of European landscape photography that are unseen in the work of American artists?

    Murray, what does the photographer's soul look like? Are we searching for a watermark? ...uh perhaps that was not the best way to express that, but can you show me an example a landscape photo that contains a little bit of the photographer's soul.
    Celac
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2006
  5. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I also liked that one, I find the composition really nice. I've been to Belgium and the Netherlands two years ago (and visited the Musée de la BD @ Bruxelles, I hear you Rantanplan!), and this is what it feels like outside of the historical centers.

    People tend to forget that those countries were bombed to shreds, so that entire towns had to be rebuilt at once. The architectural layering that is the result of history vanished, and those place DO feel like they had their soul stolen.

    I am not surprised that electro-industrial music caught so much in Belgium because that's how you should react to that kind of environment if you don't want to lose your sanity.
     
  6. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    Hey,
    ...and still suffering. In France they are still defusing WW1 ordnance. But, if you want to see whole towns built in a moment, the landscape of California is infested with them. Eastern Contra Costa county is a good example. Acre after acre (hectare?) of farms and orchards that have been converted to relatively dense suburban housing seemingly in the blink of an eye. Instant aesthetic anesthesia via the visually banal.
    Celac.
     
  7. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    I enjoyed looking over the images, but I must confess I'm left unsure after viewing one whether the artist had a purpose. I think we all know that what the photographer thinks they are seeing is often very different from what the viewer sees. But often when there is something very striking about a scene or compositional arrangement, the scene will be very striking to many, though perhaps in different ways. With these images, I find that I have no real sense for what the purpose of the photographer was, as the scenes and compositions are not particularly invigorating or dynamic. Quite the reverse. But at the same time the images convey a sense of immense thought and preparation. I am left wondering why the photographer went through the extensive preparations necessary to make the images.

    I don't think this is particularly unique to this individual. I had a similar reaction to an MAS portfolio in Lenswork a few years ago. The rather long title was something to the effect of, "I have always felt that it is how one sees rather than what one sees that matters." There are a number of other images from the US I've seen that really leave me flat also. Somehow what these images seem to have in common is that they remind me of what my photos look like when I am determined to make an image and not patient enough. But the preparation that is inherent suggests that they do indeed see something there, and I'm missing it.

    I'd probably go to an exhibition if it was convenient just because I always wonder how the real images feel, and am quite unimpressed with the web versions to convey that in most cases. I've seen images that didn't do anything for me online that were quite impressive in reality...at least to me.
     
  8. Dracotype

    Dracotype Member

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    But what about all that lovely landscape in Wildcat Canyon and Tilden Park? At least that is still nicely wild. But I guess that counts as western Contra Costa? But the rest, yeah.

    The architechture shots are very geometric, and they are slightly appealing in that way. But there is a very impersonal style to his shooting. Interesting pick.

    Drew
     
  9. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    What I meant is that I get no sense of passion, no sense of how the photographer was captivated, angered, repulsed, motivated, or amazed by his subject matter. They feel like large format snapshots...devoid of emotion. But like I said, maybe that's what he's going for.

    Murray
     
  10. mono

    mono Subscriber

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    I really do not like this sort of images.
    Some call it "trash photography" here.
    That is the reason why I left a German internet photo group when these images were raised to heaven there!
     
  11. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Hey,
    this is turning into an interesting discussion. I will react later to the things said - gotto do some other stuff first. I'll notify Kay of this thread, he didn't know I put it up. Maybe he wants to react to what you people have been saying. I have not told you Kay seems not to be a professional photographer, I recall he calls himself an amateur on the german large format forum. Not too say the quality of the work is amateuristic, but he's not some well known star photographer like Strutt, just someone who's trying to make good work, like most of us here.

    Keep on going at it while I'm away!
     
  12. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Hmmmm...I rather liked these. When the subject IS banal, the photograph conveys that. The slow shutter images offer the interpretation that life is moving quickly, but these buildings will go on for a loooooong time. Or, they offer the illusion of permanence in the guise of new buildings which likely replace old ones once thought to have been permanent and the folly of such ideas. Or some such thing. The point is I get a sense that the photographer has an interpretive motive here about which he may feel strongly. They're akin to the work Robert Adams about whom this was written after an exhibition of his photographs: "The exhibition ushered in the new era of landscape photography and it showcased the ideals of the new approach: landscape could not be artificially separated from cultural and social counterparts, and landscape photography had to abandon the hollow sense of style it had inherited from the previous half century."
     
  13. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Hmm, today was one of those days that you wish never happened - rotten! - but I'm over that now and have taken time to make something that looks like well-prepared response, ahem ahem.

    Kay has not responded yet, so either he's also having a rotten day and more wisely, decided to ride it out in bed, or he doesn't understand English. It would have been nice to hear some more from the horse's mouth, but now you'll have to do with my ramblings.

    When starting this thread, I merely said I felt more at home with these pics, not that I was going to praise them to heaven. To me, these images have an immediate pull on my sentiments. I actually and truly enjoy these images. To me they are not boring or empty at all. I can communicate with them very well. That doesn't mean I find them all good from a professional point of view.

    The ones I especially like for more than just 'homey, sentimental reasons' are this or this or this one

    What I understood from the comments posted on www.grossformatphotographie.de is that he has set himself the task to document his city, Düsseldorf. Some of the pics stem from this self-assignment. In another post that I can't retrace he explains what he's trying to do - and now this is interesting - showing that he is very concerned with content and concept and not at all with technical brilliance. That was what I found so incredibly remarkable from some of the comments posted, that people thought rather the opposite, viz. that the work lacked content, could not see what the photog was trying to capture or convey, but that they saw technique.

    The easiest argument would be to say that the photog apparently has not succeeded in conveying his vision. But that's too easy a retort. You see, first of all I do not share this view, for to me he has succeeded in conveying his concept. Second, a lot of pictures that are liked across the pont (of Ansel-like dead treas, sweeping views in mountains, rough nature, waterfalls, etc. etc.) to me seem to lack the same content, while being technically well executed. To me, these seem boring and uninteresting, empty. Meaning they don't pull my strings and for the life of me I can't comprehend why other people rave over them. More than just individual differences, I would say continental differences are at play here as well. (Of course, I could be wrong).
    On the other hand, I bet there is a certain amount catholicism at play as well. I have found that one of the common grounds in work I like has been the proximity of the maker to catholicism or a catholically impregnated community in his early life, specifically catholicism as practiced in a number of European countries, specif. Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Eastern Europe. I really can't put my finger on it or why it matters, but I have just found this to be the case.

    I think the photog realizes the banality of his work, but I feel he's more with how things are captured rather than what - the how here being crucial to an image being succesful or not. Perhaps it's also that indefinite 'how' that I like.

    Another interesting thing I gleaned from these comments, is that to people not familiar with this kind of environment, these images tell them something about the local architecture, whereas to me these are such familiar visuals, that I can only record them as a very personal statement about this ubiquitous mix of buildings. It's like seeing a personal portrait from someone you know initimately as opposed to seeing a portrait from an unknown person. You will tend to notice very different aspects of the image.

    Okay, nuff said now. Or I won't shut up!
     
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  15. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

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    His work is definitely influenced by the Becher school of aesthetics. It is similar to Andreas Gursky's early work in a way. Do you know if he prints big like Gursky?
     
  16. bohica

    bohica Member

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    It's simple really! One man's meat is another man's potatoes. If we all liked the same thing, there would be 1 camera, 1 type of film, 1 developer, etc, etc.
     
  17. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Oh, I totally agree with you - I left it out since apparently I thought it self-evident. I don't think he prints big, since I remember seeing a remark that he hasn't even exhibited these works and he's still looking for a sponsor. I don't even know if he prints at all yet.

    BTW The Becher school goes back a long way before the Bechers entered on stage. Renger-Patz was a very important pre-runner of course, but even before that in older photos the tendencies are there, maybe not as much worked out in detail as in spirit.

    But this Becher-syndrome, as I call it, could be very stifling for new photographers in the way that it will be real hard to come up with a new 'style' or direction of photography. You see lots of people continuing in the Becher footsteps, even in new directions, but still in their footsteps. That's not to say I don't like that kind of photography, as I do very much, and I must admit I too find myself influenced and attrackted by that school of photography, but to find your own particular way beyond that is something different. There is a vast difference between the copying of a way of working or taking it one step further. As we all know, I expect.

    ---
    I find it too simple to put the different reactions to the work down to what bohica commented, even though it is completely within the line of expectation that someone feels tempted to make it.
     
  18. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    Hi,
    Allow me to reiterate, (hopefully without pestering) are there unified attributes of European landscape photography that are unseen in the work of American artists? Also, for those of us following the plot from the cheap seats, can you speak to the connection between KayKayKay and the Bechers. In looking at the few pictures presented on the website they seem to be quite fundamentally different from one another. (not just in media:smile:)
    Celac.
     
  19. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Hi Celac,
    will you allow me to ponder your question during or right after my sleep? I'm way too late already....

    first question: let's narrow it down a bit to say maybe German landscape photography since it so ubiquitous?
    second question: it's the Becher school we're talking about, not to be confused with the work by the Becher's only, but also from their many students.
     
  20. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    Certainly. It is a nice discussion you have started here. I have pulled out what I have on B+H Becher and Renger-Patzsch and spent some time looking through it. I will try to formulate a cohesive statement about what I see as fundamentally different among the artists in question. To be clear, I like B+H Becher's work very much.
    Celac.
     
  21. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Hi Celac,
    it gets better - well, for you, maybe not for me. I received an e-mail today from Kay with a long explanation in German about his work plus the request to translate it for the forum and post it for him. He can read but not write fluently in English, apparently. He said he finds this thread very interesting too, especially because the comments come from the anglo-american cultural space (Kulturraum). So now to me the great honor befalls of translating his text into English. I flatter myself that at least it will be a little better than if he had the Babelfish do it for him. However, you will have to wait a bit until I'm done. And when I'm done, Kay promised to send me some further remarks on his work and the concepts behind it, which I will then also translate for you lot as well.

    At least you will get it straight from the horses mouth and I will be saved speculating about this guys work and possible making severe errors of judgement in the process.

    In the meantime I - and no doubt Kay too - will be looking forward to your cohesive statement, which will, no doubt, succeed in maintaining the level of this discussion.
     
  22. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    Hi,
    Well, at that rate I better finish reading the essay on Renger-Patzsch that I pulled off the shelf last night. It will be interesting to open the dialogue to the artist's participation but I am certainly still interested in hearing your ideas, both about his work and about the larger topic in general (continental as opposed to US approaches to landscape). In an earlier post you mentioned:
    I find the flip-flop of this relationship to be a great catalyst to making images. It seems to me that as a "stranger" I am freed to deal with the world wholly as plastic material. One of the privileges of being an American is that one does not have to leave the country or often even travel far to enter into this state of strangerhood.
    Celac.
     
  23. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    I like Kays photos a lot. There are plenty of other photographers to hit me with sublime rapture and attention-grabbing visual rhythms. Kay speaks in a quieter, more thoughtful voice.

    I agree that it is perhaps easier to 'get' his photography if you know and live in the present European cultural landscape. I suspect most Americans would be suprised to learn how much more interesting Kays photographs are to look at than a typical modern European street view. I also suspect that part of Kay's motivation is to take a look at the world that we actually inhabit, rather than to try and squeeze it into a box left behind by the Romantics.

    The Rhine series is that rare thing: photography that works better on the web than in traditional print, book or film form.

    So Kay tickles my intellect. He makes me think, and ponder, and think again. It will be interesting to see if his motivation fits at all with my perception.
     
  24. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    This is my undoubtly in places poor translation of what Kay said about his work.

    "My photography runs along two separate lines:

    1. an ongoing documentation of my hometown Düsseldorf, which should be as free of subjectivity as possible. That this is ultimately not possible, should not be discussed here, as it has already sufficiently been researched by Thomas Ruff.

    2. Conceptual works, of which the themata may vary.

    I will say something about my city photographs since most comments seem to focus on those.

    What led me to make this series was a photo book by Stephen Shores, titled Uncommon Places. Shores documented his travels through the States in the seventies. What fascinated me was the then very average, but now extemely fascinating images from very run-of-the-mill everyday street corners, gas stations, supermarkets, parking lots etc etc. These images shew me an America that I didn't know then. I only knew glossy images of sky skrapers, grubby slums, boring suburbs, MacDonalds, etc. etc. Images as these have only catered to the clichee market, where the viewer does not experience anything new. Whereas Shores' images showed me the everyday public spaces, not these boring widely known highlights. These every day public spaces exist everywhere, but hardly anyone takes to the idea of photographing/documenting them, even if they tell us more about the culture of a society than the usual high gloss commercial calender pictures do.

    When I look at contemporary photo books on Düsseldorf for sale in shops, I'm always shocked by the discrepancy between the presented showy image of my town and the real city. With my Düsseldorf series I strive (but never will achieve) to make some sort of honest portrait of what the city is really like. To convey a true-to-life image is perhaps impossible, but I think I will approach this reality more with my work than with the usual glossy pictures.

    A few posters said to see a parallel between my work and that of the Düsseldorf school, specifically Gursky. I would like to keep my distance from that. Yes, I do use a large format camera and yes, I do photograph cityskapes, but I do it in a completely different way and manner. To me it is important that future viewers can identify the time period in which my work is made. A good criterium for dating photographs is often 'the car'. Gursky puts more value on simple graphics and a certain timelessness, this with an eye on his buyers.

    The first commenter (Murray) spoke of an emptiness in my images. I would like to propose to exchange 'emptiness' with 'absence of a main subject'. I take great pleasure in achieving a kind of order in the chaotic cityscenes with my compositions. By controlled composing of the image I try to construct and suggest a connection between objects, that in reality have no relation to eachother whatsoever. In a lot of cases, the results are photos that have no real 'main subject' or 'main focal point', and therefore a certain emptiness or absence of subject. I think that I, by proceeding in this method, create images that are 'more open' to the viewer than images with a main subject and corresponding composition, who immediately direct the viewer in a certain direction of interpretation.'

    Well, that's all for now. I'm glad people here are enjoying our conversation. I will wait to put in my own comment until new entries have put some distance between this translation and my own personal view on things.

    Struan, I think you will find that your perception was not very far off the mark. You are a keen observer, it seems.
     
  25. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    Very interesting, of all the photographers whose work I've seen, this work reminded me most of Stephen Shores, so now I see that's no coincidence. I don't particularly 'get' Shores' work either, but I definitely see the connection here. I am interested in the crossover between fine art and documentary photography, but I don't feel that the composition and subject need to leave an 'empty' feeling. Without making a glossy advertising image, I still seek to make images that help me as the viewer to understand and make connections with what I see. Probably just a fundamental difference in outlook. I feel like my photography helps me to understand and appreciate things I see by a distillation process, and helps me look at things that I wouldn't otherwise pay attention to. Based on Kay's response and Shores' images, this very distillation process at any level may violate their purpose, both aesthetic and perhaps ethical.
     
  26. rfshootist

    rfshootist Member

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    Tho my perception ( as a German) isn't asked here, I dare a remark anyway, because of this "typical German" thing above.

    These photos are impressing me, some are really great, they would not be so perfect with any other camera, and the first thing I thought was that some remind me strongly to Atget, but in general there must be a relationship the Stephen Shore's vision of places.
    While Atget is strictly on the documentary side and cannot avoid so to say to make the magic and poetry of some urban places visible anyway, Stephen Shore is balanced differently, he is more on the personality side, he photographs places like people and makes the emotions visible which some places do evoke indeed.
    To keep these places free of people can be part of the concept, it is the environment solely which is photographed and the photographer let's you intentionally alone with this place to let you feel it's impact on you .

    There is nothing in these pics IMHO what could be called a "typical German style" and I still guess, what kinda subsumption could be meant at all with such a category ?

    The remark about "trash photography " was annoying btw.
    If one cannot get in contact with the vision behind the pics one should leave them alone and not dump them in any derisve category like "Trash Photography". Categories are intellectual diarhoea , seen from the artistical standpoint they are just another "bourgeois concept" !

    Please tell this guy I like his photos, they are well thought and well done !
    And thanks for sharing the link !

    Bertram