This advertising column (“Litfaßsäule”) cried for a photograph from across the street. Since I also liked the context the above picture was excerpted from, I decided to show it, too. Do you find the part I framed in the first picture?
This week’s photo challenge is collage – how could I resist posting these pictures?
“I’m not interested in the texture of the rock, or that it is a rock, but in the mass of it, and its shadow.” Ellsworth Kelly
What could abstract photography be about? I think we might get an idea when we borrow terms from music: Abstract photos, for me, should be about composition, about tonality and colours, about harmony and disharmony, measure and rhythm… and pauses. It is about organizing noise.
That’s what I am looking for in an abstract photo, and trying to accomplish. The ripped-off posters above come close to the idea. Ironically enough, abstract as they may be, they might also be more documentary than most of my other pictures.
This is my second contribution for Paleica’s 12 Magische Mottos, this month’s magic word being abstraction.
Litfaß: These pictures are important to me. About a year ago, I was looking for opportunities to focus on composition without paying too much attention to subject.
In this search I found Litfaßsäulen, advertising columns. On these columns, they attach one poster on top of the other. It’s standard procedure here in Germany, so if you look closely your realize the columns grow in diameter.
But there’s a local specialty in Wiesbaden: Somebody writes over the brighter parts of the posters, leaving quotes from the Bible, sometimes advertising his ability as an exorcist. Later, someone apparently not liking these particular graffiti tries to tear off the poster pieces that have been written on. And then the ‘work’ of the writer and his (alleged) adversary may be covered with a new advertisement the next day.
This is what we are looking at in the pictures: They represent a ‘slice of time.’
Still, I am asking myself why I don’t create palimpsests from old books or magazines or travel brochures? They could look very much the same as these photos with one difference: The palimpsest would feel like first-hand reality (as opposed to only a representation of a first-hand reality).
Would that really be better? The photos enlarge the paper’s structure as well as the dots and details that come with the printing process of the poster, and fragments of handwriting. I feel like I am at the ‘inside’ of the posters.
I realize that part of these photographs’ fascination lies in view of this materiality – graffiti pictures showing similar compositions do not do the job as well; I tried it: They always fall a bit short of my expectations.
Abstract pictures convey a large portion of meaning through composition. Although I am intellectually aware of that fact, I am often amazed by the difference even the tiniest change of camera position makes. For me, these are three different pictures, altough they represent the same piece of reality. | This is my first idea for Paleica’s Magic June Motto.
Litfaßsäulennummer: Number on an adertising column. The leaves got attached to the posters during recent thunder storms. | My contribution for The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers.
This series keeps growing. New ads invite new graffiti, Bible quotes written by a man who claims to be Jesus, which in turn get ripped off by somebody else, creating layers of narrative potential… To collect the resulting compositions, I have added a new gallery called “Litfaß” (after the inventor of this type of advertising column) to the Photo Series menu.
Last Thursday we invited friends and colleagues for a private viewing. The show included two pieces from the Litfaß series, and one of the visitors remarked that she had mistaken the two photos for collages at first sight.
Collage is a matter of choice: You pick the elements of your picture from a vast pile of available stuff, then arrange it into a composition.
The process of making a photo is very close to that of making a collage. You choose. You eliminate. The choice determines the outcome. We don’t show what is but what we see fit for framing.
I hope nobody minds me choosing another Litfaß picture (from session no. 17) over showing arrays of things to pick from for Paula’s Thursday Special which is – you may have guessed – choice. And this is what I chose from (click to enlarge):
Life imitates art imitates life… If we only see what we know the impact of art seems clear: It hints at seeing differently, or different things. A torn-off advertisement poster may ‘contain’ an abstract composition. This one vaguely reminds me of Joan Miró. | This is my contribution for the Weekly Photo Challenge.
Paula at Lost in Translation kindly asked me to host a guest challenge which I gladly did because those challenges often entail great discussions. That’s what’s happening… Jo wondered if organizing noise was something like finding beauty in ugliness. I remarked that the phrase might also be understood as “ordering chaos” and then realized that this answer might make sense in more ways than I would have thought.
1. I was reminded of Michel Foucault’s L’ordre du discours, “The Order of Discourse.” Order/ordre seems to signify system here, or disposal, also connoting terms like regulation or even directive.
According to Foucault, there is no knowledge to be had outside of Discourse. Discourse decides what can be said within reason and what cannot, and what form a proposition must have. By exerting this power, Discourse forces knowledge into existing: The ways in which we can think or speak about anything determine what we can know about these things.
2. I was also reminded of Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, one of the masterworks of Modernity. Writing this novel, Döblin saw himself confronted with the problem of representing all the things happening simultaneously in a metropolis. As a solution, it seems, he chose the form of collage. And in one of the many essays that may be read as commentaries of his work, Döblin asks: “Was steigt in das Becken des Jetzt?” – “What will climb into the Pool of Now?”
Climbing into the Pool of Now: I love this metaphor! Today I get the impression that it is also a photographer’s (and an artist’s) question: What will be allowed to ‘climb’ into the picture – now?
Answering this question by releasing the shutter, we force pictures into being, pictures of a world that often presents itself to us as an incomprehensible chaos. Pictures then can help us sort it out, no matter if we choose the counter-discourse of art or the discourse of reportage.
Pictures from Litfaß session no. 11
The pictures in this series sometimes look like pictures of art pieces to me. If they were, I would not see the point in photographing them like that. I do see a point, however, in finding constellations like the ones shown here: posters torn off an advertising column.
One could call them artworks resembling the reproductions of artworks. They actually show destruction, simultaneously constructing something new. The title previously assigned to this series – Deconstructivism – was therefore just as good, but Litfaß should set the record straight; Litfaß-Säule meaning advertising column.