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The Studio and the Street
On the Origins of the Exhibition "More than Meets the Eye"

Andreas Gursky, Tokio Börse, 1990
Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

Since the late seventies, photography has been considered a fine art in its own right. From the very beginning, however, it has oscillated between two poles, that of the studio and the street, the staged shot and the documentation. On the occasion of the exhibition "More than Meets the Eye," Ulf Erdmann Ziegler shows how this duality continues to determine the medium to this day.

Hanging on Eugène Atget 's, the Parisian photographer's, door was a sign that read: "Documents pour artistes". That was one hundred years ago. Today, his work constitutes a key part of the MoMA collection in New York, where the canonization of photography began forty years ago, a process that can be considered complete now following the retrospectives of Andreas Gursky and Lee Friedlander.
Gursky's gigantic color panoramas of the sites of global business and Friedlander’s pensive and penetrating black and white images represent two different approaches to photography – provided one has the calling. Friedlander became a photographer at the age of fourteen after a kind of religious conversion in the darkroom, while Gursky practically grew up in a commercial photo studio.

Gotthard Graubner, Untitled
(Buddhist Monastery in Bhutan/ Himalayas), um 1976
Deutsche Bank Collection, © Gotthard Graubner

The race between the turtle and the hare was decided years ago: photography is clearly an art form. And this position carries with it an enormous advantage: if a polarity between the fine arts and photography didn't exist, then it would no longer need to be investigated, described, and represented. Inverted Zen here: the goal is the path.

Deutsche Bank's photography is part of a collection of "works on paper," which means that it exists in the context of other artistic works. In formal terms, one thing works on paper have in common is that they are presented behind glass; another is that the public seldom sees works on paper as major works of art. Drawings, for instance, often serve as a key to interpreting other works, a kind of link between the life and the work that is more valuable and accessible to the expert than to the lay person.

There are, in fact, many works in this collection that describe an artist's search or a moment of transgression: Gerhard Richter's ventures into being a grey caveman, Gotthard Graubner's secret protocols from a cloister in the Himalayas, Imi Knoebel's photographic notes on his light sculptures in the studio. It's more a matter of experience than photography. For artists such as Pierre Bonnard, George Grosz, or Cy Twombly , photography is an enrichment of everyday life, a welcome opportunity to immerse oneself in a foreign technique – not so much art as artistic activity. This also applies in varying degrees to Richter, Graubner, and Knoebel.

Raimund Kummer, M&C, 1989
Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

It does not, however, apply to Astrid Klein, Jürgen Klauke, Katharina Sieverding, or Raimund Kummer. When photography entered their studios, it was as an original form of art. In Klein's work, the studio borders on the darkroom. For Klauke, the camera serves as a solitary observer of grotesque occurrences on a stage. For Sieverding, the photograph is a medium of idolatry, like in Hollywood. In the case of Raimund Kummer, photography wanders from the miniature through the quote and on to the workbench, where it grows and grows until the studio and the picture can no longer be distinguished from one another.

Katharina Sieverding, Life-Death, 1969/95
Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

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