Neger (Nuba) – Gerhard Richter

Negroes (Nuba), Gerhard Richter

Neger (Nuba)

Negroes (Nuba)
145 cm X 200 cm
Oil on canvas
Catalogue Raisonné: 45
Gerhard Richter

Been reading Gerhard Richter, A life in Painting by a biography written by Dietmar Eleger.  This painting was first exhibited at a show named Neue Realisten. included Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke, Gerd Richter at Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, Germany, November 20 1964 – January 01 1965 according to the artist’s information.

Rudolf Jahrling  (Gallery Parnass owner / architect ) – according to the biography – was impressed by seeing the work set up outside on the front garden of the house and gave the visiting artists the opportunity to have a group show – which turned out to be some of the earliest key and important “emerging” opportunities for exhibition for Richter.  There’s a snapshot of “tote”  or Dead, (one of my favorite pictures of Richter’s “photo paintings” propted up against a chainlink fence next to some garbage cans upon which set more paintings…  Imagine…  it puts it all into another perspective  – that of the humble beginings….  Early paintings were a bargained for $400 DM with as little as 1/3 going to artist and some paintings donated to the gallery to cover costs of exhibitions and catalogues…

Hard to imagine given the situation today, Sotheby’s reports that Neger (Nuba) 1964 just sold for a little over $5.6 million – (yeah million) as an key example of early “photo paintings” by Richter.  I wonder what someone like Richter thinks about that…?  I hope the work ends up in a public venue.  See the catalogue here.

The thing about these photo paintings and Richter at a grand scale is not to think of appropriation, but to think about perhaps that it may just be that it takes a painting to be able to really see  a documentary , or so called “objective” photograph ….  The original photograph not incidentally by photographer Leni Riefenstahl… AKA “Hitler’s favorite filmmaker“…..

…talk of "citizen journalism"…

(Cover attribution – Aperture no. 189 – Hara Mikiko, Untitled, from the series Is As It, 1996)

A recent post over on Conscientious about citizen journalism – considers an interesting question about the potential “use” of photographs, and ownership “rights” but I think perhaps another more important and broad question in my opinion is about why one might be inspired to try to photograph – and further to share that image in the public domain. I can’t speak for other’s and what motivates them to take pictures – whether it’s for a living or for fun – as a “professional” or an “amateur” an “artist” or a “photojournalist”. But I can elaborate a little bit on what motives me.

With the utmost of serendipity and completely by chance, I have a concrete recent example to consider and I’d like to share my thoughts about this topic.

“Vote Here” article and photograph selections by William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand – Aperture no 189 – Winter 2007

At this time, I feel compelled to note that I am not affiliated with Aperture – (I am a basic consumer with a subscription) – nor am I affiliated with AIGA or the Winterhouse Institute.

In the context of this post, I am an interested citizen with a camera.

I learned of the “Polling Place Project” through a post on Alec Soth’s blog. I did my due diligence and “read the fine print” which by the way is an important aspect to consider: “In the spirit of public access and broad dissemination, all photographs are contributed under an “Attribution No Derivatives” Creative Commons license.” This type of license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you. I am in support of this method of “allowing” the usage of photographs while retaining the copyright and credit.

I felt the project was (and is) a worth while exercise to see what I might see. So, I got out there, voted, and took some pictures. But, more importantly, and now in hindsight, is to see what other citizens pictured. I felt – and still do feel – that the solicitation for “citizen photographs of the places we vote” was an interesting topic. It remains to be seen what the “anthology of photographs” may tell us. I look forward to seeing, reading, and hopefully learning more about the project.

Exit - DM 8
Exit – Precinct Polling Station – DM 8
Westchester Evangelical Free Church (West Entrance)
Des Moines, Iowa
November, 2006
Matt Niebuhr
© All rights reserved

I can’t “tell you” what to think about the particular selection of photographs, it’s important to think about the “curatorial” role in all of this. It’s up to you to decide – to test the sensitivity of your perceptions. I can say that I was surprised by the realization of the location / juxtaposition of signs and symbols – overt and covert – public / private spaces. The most striking irony to me, became apparent in the degree of the ‘supposed’ separation of church and state. But of course these are my views – my personal perceptions of these particular polling places. What do you think?

DM 13
Precinct DM 13
Moore School
Des Moines, Iowa
November, 2006

Matt Niebuhr

© All rights reserved

In summary, in the context of a discussion regarding “citizen journalism” , the currency of exchange is not based upon money, but rather, it is hoped, that the currency is based upon the exchange of my view as presented through my photograph(s). There-in lies the real potential value: a critical visual cultural exchange – one based upon the particulars here of what to me is the most valuable of our democratic of experiences – the right to vote – and further – the opportunity to exercise that right.

PS: The King is dead. Long live the King!

Unconscious Stream of Ugliness, Oblivion and Othering…

Reflections upon a photograph to remember or forget?

“He knows that everything he writes [or photographs*] is consigned to posterity (oblivion’s other, seemingly more benign, face)” Joyce Carol Oates 


* There is something gnawing at me about the notion of “othering” that was discussed by Amanda Koster during her recent visit to the Newspace Center for Photography.

Two kinds of photographs:

Photo by Renee C. Byer
In an effort to get Derek outside, Cyndie wheels him through the front door passing by artwork and cards given to her son by classmates at Bridgeway Island Elementary School. “Just like a newborn, he needs to get out and get some air,” she says. It was his last trip outdoors.

from 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner Renee C Byer, for Feature Photography.


the image below (previous post)
of Caxton – by Amanda Koster

I began thinking about this briefly in a previous post, and now with a little more reflection, I think my opinion is becoming more obvious to me; that it has to do with acknowledging a particularly powerful characteristic of still photography which is the effect of a condensed objectification of experience.

My opinion: the emotional content and symbolism in the “prize receipent” feature work by Byer – is initially gripping (emotionally), but quickly I become oblivious and hopeless. “Going towards the light” for the last time only leads me assume the predictable end – I have to have the last image in the feature series in order to close out my emotional state – it completes and releases me emotionally. I am powerless and helpless.

For me, the moment when a photograph (or series of photographs) resists this condensed experience, it changes from story telling to something more nuanced and akin to allusion. There is more depth to an image that orchestrates the voyeuristic quality of photography; to contain both intimacy and distance. It’s like a peculiar detail in a written story that sticks out – that you stub your toe on – something that allows you to project a personal connection…makes it real to you.

I particularly like the fact that the microphone from the interview with Caxton is left in the picture from “Aids is Knocking”, a reminder of opportunity for “dialogue” – along with the particular detail of the “CAT” logo on the tee-shirt. The image alludes to interaction and connection – blending symbolism and realism.

In the context of image fatigue in our visual culture, so much of what we see published invites us to enter a state of visual oblivion – a state of being disregarded or forgotten. I think partly this oblivion is from a lack of attention span coupled with some perverted need to see the ugliness that is potentially all around us. Perhaps this need to see ugliness, reassures that our own lives are relatively untouched and thereby we remain blissfully ignorant? Or, we have a visual dipstick on normalcy. Either way, this stream of ugliness is happening to others, it helps us to somehow manage to get up and get through the day – because thankfully, we are not confronted with the situation at hand. So that is the idea of photography’s negative “othering” potential… to help us live with oblivion.

It has me on the lookout for images that are powerful enough to sustain attention, to promote compassion, to get us to snap out of the hypnotic state of oblivion?

Thanks to a post by Alec Soth on his blog… “Quiz” got me to thinking…