Monday, 25 July 2011

Best of Voies Off #1: Michael Schnabel

Arles already seems a long time ago... so I am going to spend this week re-living it a little. For two of the afternoons there, I offered my services as a reviewer at the Voies Off. This is a fringe festival which is run in conjunction with the main Rencontres, and organises exhibitions, screenings and projections throughout the town. The portfolio reviews they organise are much cheaper for photographers than the main ones, as it costs 6 euros to see two reviewers; this is mainly achieved as the reviewers are offering their services for free.

Throughout the two afternoons, I saw a total of 24 people. That's a lot of work, and I was reviewing a lot in French which was very good practice for me but quite exhausting! I met some very interesting photographers, and each day this week I will showcase the photographers I saw whose work I liked best.

First up is Michael Schnabel, from Germany. Michael uses the method of painting with light to photograph darkness. His main series, Stille Berge (Silent Mountains) is a series of photographs of mountains taken in the dead of night... no moon, no stars, no light. I like the thought of him trudging up the mountainside in the dead of night with his 5x4 camera, setting up the exposure for an hour, an hour and a half, and him just waiting there for his picture to expose. To me, the resulting photographs are a reminder of the world before the presence of man; they show the beauty of nature without any human intervention. They are quite primitive, primordial, and very, very beautiful.

On the back of this series, Michael was commissioned to make work for museums in Germany, using the same principle of photographing in the pitch black. These too, make for interesting images, showing us what we don't normally see.


If you're reading this blog on one of the shiney new Mac screens (as I am), I'm afraid you are not seeing the work in the best light, as the reflections are too much. Do keep a lookout for a chance to see the work in the flesh... he prints them at over 2m wide, and I imagine they are quite awe-inspiring at that size.

Stille Berge has been produced as a book, published by Edition Braus, and available on Amazon. It is a beautiful volume, I only wish my German was up to scratch so that I could read the text! If you happen to be in Germany in the Autumn, Michael Schnabel will be exhibiting in a solo show in Osthaus Museum, Hagen, from 11 September to 6 November. He will also be exhibiting a new series, called Weisses Land (White Land) which I am excited to see.

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