Andreas Gursky : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

There is a nice piece in the current issue of The New Yorker (22 January 2001) on Andreas Gursky, a German photographer known for his ultra-large prints, many of which exploit the sort of detail one could only capture in large format. Some of his prints involve digital manipulation. All are color. They are all in a postmodern vein, borrowing some of the slickness of commercial art for more creative ends. It might not be to everyone's taste, LF-photographers often being traditionalists, but he is pushing the medium into interesting directions.

I have not seen any of these prints in person yet, but there are a few reproductions in the article, and they look like they would be very interesting in their 7x11-foot versions.

-- David Goldfarb (, January 17, 2001


I saw one of his exhibitions in London about two years ago. His style may have evolved, but as you say, the pictures are not to everyone's taste (though perhaps more because of their blandness than anything controversial or shocking). The prints look a bit commercial to me too, and alas, the grain freak in me wondered what they would have looked like if he had used 8x10 instead of 4x5 ;-)

I'm no close student of art, but a successful sculptor friend remarks that these days large size is almost de rigeur and eases entry into the ranks of the commercially successful for the striving artist...

If I recall from the notes correctly, he uses mostly EPN and color negative...

Commonplace objects and situations (a window display of shoes, a riverbank, river and sky) shot to emphasise color and geometric areas of color arrangement within the 4x5 frame...

-- Mani Sitaraman (, January 18, 2001.

That sounds like a description of every picture in every glossy photo mag these days. Pattern and colour, pattern and colour, that's all that seems to get published.
A few years back, I asked the editor of a well-known UK photo publication why they didn't select anything with a more intellectual content. He got quite upset, and stated that there was no demand for such pictures! Maybe dumbing down in the arts, and content free pictures, are what people want. I'd like to hear your views, please.

-- Pete Andrews (, January 18, 2001.

Maybe dumbing down in the arts, and content free pictures, are what people want. I'd like to hear your views, please.

YES. Let alone, human content or taking a stand about something. It's the clip art syndrome-forget history and specificity of time and pla

-- David Stein (, January 18, 2001.

Pete, I suspect that TV and cinema special effects along with video games have numbed one or more generations to subtlety, simple elegance and concise complexity. If something doesn't flash or jump, isn't intensely colorful or fails to stand out with strong pattern, "the target market," i.e. purchasers of most photo publications, won't take time to figure it out. Instant gratification is demanded. Sad, but true.

-- Sal Santamaura (, January 18, 2001.


You said that Gursky shoots his pictures on 4 x 5--are you sure? They look like they were shot on 8 x 10 or even 11 x 14, but maybe that's because of the relative lack of a loss of sharpness and resolution, due to the digital technology he employs. Anyway, do you or does anyone else know for sure which format Gursky shoots? I have been wondering about this for some time.

-- Nick Rowan (, January 18, 2001.

yeah, right. print anything big enough and people will think it must be art. big gets attention, and that is critical in the art world.

-- jnorman (, January 18, 2001.

i don't need to defend gursky but this discussion has gotten off the subject. gursky is an artist who makes photographs for exhibition, not publication. he does not need to please photo editors at magazines. like it or not, i don't think one can lump it in with glossy "pattern and colour." he is currently one of the most celebrated artists in the world and is having a major retrospective at moma (this alone should afford him some artistic credibility). i have seen his large prints and they are very impressive, but of course if you view them from 1 or 2 feet they look grainy (many are shot on 8x10 and are more than 10x enlargements). while there has been a "dumbing down" of society and culture, i don't see how it relates to gursky's work. if anything a background in art history is needed to fully appreciate the photographs (usually met with charges of being too intellectual, not too dumb).it may not be your cup of tea but it is hardly content free. if you are in nyc i would suggest seeing his show at moma and reading a little background information, then judge for yourself.

-- adam friedberg (, January 18, 2001.

Or buy his book... It's really an interesting approach of seeing our world. And some pictures are quite a lesson how to use Large Format. G.Zuili

-- Guillaume Zuili (, January 18, 2001.

Adam, just to clarify, I was answering Pete's request for others' views on the situation he described. I've not seen Gursky's work. Perhaps Tuan could relocate out our posts into another, appropriately titled thread?

-- Sal Santamaura (, January 18, 2001.

check out january's ART FORUM magazine - cover story on gursky and two critical reviews. also te neues just reissued the big coffee table book for a reasonable price (unfortunately the reproduction quality is far below the original schirmer/mosel edition but you get what you pay for). gursky's work is not hard to find, nor is the work of his contemporaries thomas struth, axel hutte and thomas demand, all of whom shoot large format and print "big." see the work yourself and you'll understand the scale. i don't see it as big for big's sake.

-- adam friedberg (, January 18, 2001.

Nick: I recall the exhibition notes mentioning that he did his work on 4x5. But that might have applied just to that show, of course, and I cannot say if he has used 8x10 previously or since, of course.

As for intellectual and artistic context, I am neither familiar with his intellectual antecedents or the milieu he comes from, so I am not attempting any reasonable, informed, in-context opinion. I shall watch this thread with interest for that...

-- Mani Sitaraman (, January 18, 2001.

i do not wish to disparage success - it is always an acheivement. however, what i see here is not an artist of particular vision or creativity, it is a man who has had the chutzpa, savvy, and determination to make a career happen - in the art world, these are often more essential qualities than creativity. gursky's imagery leaves me unmoved, and while large prints can be fascinating in their ability to display details that one often overlooks in real life, big does not compensate, IMHO, for the true mastery of artistic endeavor. consider the power of work by such as ralph eugene meatyard, duane michals, mapplethorpe, arbus, and others - whose images reach out of the print and grab you by the heart. the article about gursky in the new yorker, with attendant glowing praise, makes it evident that he is successful in that fleeting world. but if you examine the illustrations of his photos in the article, at more normal sizes, do you find evidence of a compelling vision? i see snapshots. i submit these comments as personal opinions, not to start an argument or claim that others should share my position.

-- jnorman (, January 18, 2001.

I have never seen Andreas Gursky originals (only through reproduction) but I can say that I would be very excited to see it live. The sheer size of the image would be awesome to see.

I would have to agree with the comment made by Mr Andrews regarding subject matter in published materials. I think that the majority of of the photographic images chosen for magazines basically demonstrate excercises in composition. Many times I see images that are made to "look" like art. I can understand that these images will sell, but it would be nice to see some refreshing work.

I can't say that all images must have a philisophical meaning behind them. Certainly there is meaning and intention behind all aesthetic decisions in picture making; but not all images have to give an emotional response to be successful. There are many additional layers that can make an image intriguing. I once saw an exhibition by a photographer that tried to remove all aesthetic and subjective decisions from his images (of course it is impossible to completly stay objective; any mechanism set up to expose an image is automatically rendered subjective). He had set up a sytem that randomly generated a location where to shoot, the direction, the time of day, etc (it was actually quite complex and thoruogh). He had pursued this for several months. When I viewed his show, I saw a large collection of images printed 20x24 in size, all mounted and treated the same. The images where not exactly picturesque, but they were very much about "photography". The images in the show talked more about photography than many of the high-gloss ones I see in shop windows.

I haven't followed up on Andreas Gursky yet, but this photographer has certainly made me stop and look at his images a second time.

-- Dave Anton (, January 19, 2001.

Did you know that a couple of german photographer including Gursky have been succeeding all over Europe and they are pupils of an famous photographer "Behier?" who has been doing many water tower series. I live in NYC, and I 've seen his works at Mathew Marks Gallery twice. It was very interesting!! and I don't know how many edition he makes, but most are sold out. The only thing which I don't like is the way he mounts the photographs. He mounts his works onto the back of the plexi just like lamination so that he can't remove the works permanently. And, the plexci is very easy to get scratched, so someone told me that he has to take extream care to handle his works. One piece is around 50000 dallers I've heard.

-- usagiana (, January 20, 2001.

gursky(along with ruff and struth) were students of bernd and hilla becher (and also gerhard richter), whose work is classic and often exhibited. to the guy who doesn't like gursky - you are missing the point. arbus, meatyard, et al. are trying to convey emotion in their photographs. gursky is anti-emotion, in a very postmodern conceptual vein. he is one of the most amazing artists working today. as a large format photographer, I respect and admire his work to no end.

-- simon greenberg (, January 20, 2001.

I just saw the photos about five hours ago and this is what I felt:

I have seen the photos before, several times, but only just one, two , three. Now I am in five or six rooms of over forty at MOMA.

I stand in front of each one- at least six feet and more in size. I stand two feet away. It seems like I am a lens as I turn my head and the photo bends. I feel like a fly. Like a spy. I see these people and wonder if they know how scary it is. Do they know what is happening? Do they know where they, we are going? So many of the scenes are so rigid, so ordered, so perfect, but are they- the people, are they too? The details Are amazing. I could look at the floors of the Marriott in New York as a photo and wonder what each person and tray is doing there, for ages. My god, what does it say? It's almost like what happened the the photos of Mark Klett which showed people taking over and taming the American West-- only this Is different. The Stock Exchanges, the hotels, the 99 candy stores are taking over the people. I agree with the curator, Peter Galassi, who said today " I am glad I have eyes." The photos are amazing. My eyes take them in and my brain reels. And that is what matters, the photos stir me. And that doesn't happen often and I have seen hundreds of thousands of photos since the 60's.

-- Robert Stevens (, February 28, 2001.

There is an exhibition of Gurskys work at Moma from 14 march -15May Very Yummy exciting stimulating work. It works well on an auditory level.

-- Kpea (, March 08, 2001.

i haven't seen the show yet - is there a soundtrack?

-- adam friedberg (, March 08, 2001.

FYI: Andreas Gursky shoots 5x7 film.

-- Gregory Kriss (, March 14, 2001.

Can anyone refer me to the little piece on gursky a few weeks back (not artforum)where they talked about his photographing the same museum piece as one of his young german contemporaries who was quite upset with him and gursky paid it no mind; i believe it was a one page piece in the New Yorker. Thanks for the help...

-- Jeffrey Ross (, March 15, 2001.

I saw a wonderful exhibit of Bernd & Hilla Becher/Andreas Gursky photographs at the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, last year... I forgot the title of the exhibit and had no luck of finding it in search. Andreas Gursky's work is eye catching and brings us to see things in a more simplistic way. His eye isolates subjects that are complex or larger than life and grabs the viewer's attention to the simpleness of the subject matter.. It is this viewpoint- seeing things that one sees every day- but with such a different perspective, that draws the viewer into the photograph. Superbly done. Being able to achieve that perspective makes the photographer unique. Other photographers that have achieved this, IMHO, are Uta Barth, Thomas Ruff, and Mario Cravo Neto each in their own style. I urge everyone that has a chance to see any of these artist's works to do so.

-- martin dreyer (, March 17, 2001.

Very interesting is the newest piece in the Modern's Gursky Retrospective, "Stockholder's Meeting, 2001," which is the most explicit work of Gursky's in terms of both digital manipulation and political comment. A constantly implicit (though not clumsily suggested) thematic in Gursky is, of course, the displacement of human narrative, human subject (both in and in front of the photograph), in the face of massive environments (whether they be expressly architectural, commercial, corporate, or natural): in "Stockholder's Meeting" corporate logos line the blank tops of both halves of a diptych. Beneath them is a mountainside, with rows of corporation boardmembers superimposed upon it and worked into its surface. Below this is another superimposition, of what looks like a packed cinema audience: we see none of their faces, they are hardly more than silhouettes, etc. Aside from the silliness of the illusion (esp so in the context of other, infinitely more subtle, Gursky images) there seems to be an especially trite political comment being made. The piece does not throw all of Gursky into question for me, but it certainly makes me wonder about what his new directions may be.

Has anyone seen this print or other new Gursky work, or have any other ideas about this print itself? Thanks

-- Jonah Weiner (, April 08, 2001.

Hey, I just happened to stop by the MoMA yesterday with a photographer friend who needed to see the exhibit for a class. There seems to be a great deal of scorn for gursky's patterning/color use as being overly commercial but what I got out of the pictures was that he was using this method as a means to COMMENT on that sort of advertising-esque photogrpahy. One that particularily stuck out in my head was "99 cents" which was a photo of the interior of one of those ubiquitous 99 stores. Lots of color, lots of pattern, lots of "99" written all over the place. I literally laughed out loud at the photo. It was so obnoxiously commercial that it was humorous: the title of the piece was "99 cents" as i said, on the walls of the store it said, "EVERYTHING 99!" and yet, on every single item was marked the price in big blue letters; next to colorful rows of candy bars, juice, etc. etc. This was clearly over-emphasized in the photo - it was this repetition and blatant advertising that seemed to be the social commentary that Gursky was trying to achieve.

Blah blah blah, my point is that if you're in the NY area or will be going to NY, you sohuld really go see the exhibit, it was pretty good.

-- Elizabeth Williams (, April 11, 2001.

Gurskys photographs are amazing and lose almost all of their appeal when reproduced in books. Does anyone know where I could obtain poster size reproductions of some of his works. More specifically - May Day IV. Thanks.

-- Wahid Bhimji (, May 24, 2001.

MoMA in NY is selling a very big print of the 99 cents piece.

-- Victoria Paterson (, June 04, 2001.

Does anyonw know where you can get reporductions of Gursky's photos (other than 99 cents)?

-- Rick (, March 18, 2002.

I just saw 'May Day IV 2000' in Liverpool and I thought it was amazing, not simply because of its size but because of the sheer amount of souls captured in the picture. Photography for me is about a moment in time (Well Duh!) but Gursky has captured this extremely well. The focus of the crowd is away from the picture but for Gursky the crowd is the the focus. Awesome shot that spoke to me instantly.

-- Simon Gentile (, July 29, 2002.

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