The theme imposed on the candidates for the BMW Paris-Photo Prize, awarded yesterday, was ‘electric vision,’ which proved to be the best and worst of things: there were fireflies, night scenes, and of course, a photograph of a nuclear power plant, but it is significant, and comforting, that the jury, instead of awarding an ‘ordinary’ documentary photographer, chose the Hungarian photographer (living in Holland) Gabor Ösz, who, for years, has done novel work on the essence of photography itself, recreating space from the void, or playing on the opposition between negative and positive, all the while questioning reality. Much of his work focuses on the use of architecture as a pinhole camera, in particular using the bunkers of the Todt line, buildings for observation now in disuse, like a giant camera obscura, registering the seascape on film in the back of the bunker.
The photography shown here is the in the same vein. Turning a small caravan into a camera obscura, Gabor Osz photographed greenhouses on the outskirts of Amsterdam: this image is the result of four nights of exposures, patiently spent gathering all the possible photons emitted by these feeble light sources (Permanent Daylight n.6, 12.1.2004).
Among Gabor Ösz’s series (Ösz’s work is also on display at Loevenbruck Gallery until December 4th, and at the gallery’s stall in Paris Photo), this one called Constructed Views seems quite interesting: when you remove the steel rods used for construction of a reinforced concrete building, there remain a large number of small holes, around two centimeters in diameter, regularly drilled into the walls. From these small holes, before they are filled, we have a view of the world from a skyscraper, the city unique and ephemeral, slightly different from each hole. It is this family of perspectives that the photographer captures with a camera obscura, leaving us with a very particular vision of architecture.
I was not as excited by the honorable mention bestowed on Carlo van de Boer, who strives to capture, using electrical sensors attached to his Polaroid camera, a person’s aura, experience, impressions, what is to come. It is a beautiful photograph, a blueish portrait seemingly floating in space, but the discourse behind it is a bit too ‘new age’ for my taste.
In contrast, I was very seduced by Max Aguilera Hallweg’s entry. Against the backdrop of New York’s metallic hard lines, under the slanting lines of media projectors, into a very grey and cold universe springs a Pollock canvas, its colors violent, its lines sinuous: in this museum laboratory (at MoMA), two men analyze the canvas, in the process of restauration. One can see on various screens partial and full reproductions of the canvas, like digital echoes. I found this spellbinding, having the full force of a Jeff Wall composition without the artifice: the confrontation of two visual worlds, their junction on the screens; the resulting tension pleasing (Pigment composition analysis of a Pollock painting, using multispectral fluorescence and ultra-violet imaging, MoMA, NY, 2007).
In this selection, which is actually quite average, my last favorite is by Jean-Christian Bourcart (who was the winner of the defunct Prix du Jeu de Paume) photographed (Stardus 73), the glass front of the projector in a movie theater: the film’s image is unreal, floating, studded with grains of dust lit by the beams (images are on his site as well). Ultimately, these three photographers interrogate our vision, each in his way, each as radical as the next.
All photographs on the site can be seen in diaporama. Photos courtesy of Paris Photo.