Frank van der Salm
26.8 - 23.9 2007
opening Sunday 26 August at 16.00 hour
Landscape photographs are normally full of information about the location, horizon, scale, distances and perspective of the landscape. Not so with the photographs of Frank van der Salm (born in Delft in 1964). Here, the viewer is left with countless questions rather than answers. Through the manipulative potential of his technique in taking the picture, the usual gauges found in the photograph are rendered utterly useless. In particular, it is hard to estimate the scale of what it is that has been photographed. Are we talking about a mountain, or indeed, a maquette? There is no focal point, because so much of the subject is out of focus, and Van der Salm’s very effective framing also means that one cannot always deduce a context.
With this technique, the subject is manipulated until it has evolved into a complicated and disorientating new image. In our day of trends and commerce, with its excess of visual stimuli and multimedia communications, Van der Salm has availed himself of a tremendous pleasure in the creation of images and perceptions of reality. He moreover does so without critical or political undertones. His preoccupation with a changing society seems sooner to have been born of a sincere fascination with the new developments.
Herein lies an important difference between Van der Salm and his photographer predecessors. He acknowledges that amongst other things, he has been influenced by such people as Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams. These ‘new topographers’ made a name for themselves in the 1970s with landscape photography that meant a total break in style with the prevailing ideal. This ideal had comprised a heavily romanticised vision of the unspoiled landscapes of the American West. The ‘new topographers’, who also included Stephen Shore and Bernd and Hilla Becher, sounded a critical note by showing the landscape as it was fundamentally altered by man. Their photography was very pure and left a strong impact. In Van der Salm’s case, the camera also looks to today’s changing society, but he employs this reality solely to bring across his own message. ‘Reality for me is only a means to be used as flat, two-dimensional paint.’ The medium of photography is in his view ideally suited to confronting and exposing the relationship between the image and the thing it represents, precisely because of the level of ‘truth’ that people have always attributed to the photographic image.
Van der Salm photographs landscapes, cities and architecture, but he also portrays light, water and movement. To do so, he travels throughout all of Europe and America. He goes in search of the right locations, seeking for hours on end with a preconceived idea in mind, as long as it takes until just the right disorientating combination can be formed between reality and the image of reality that he is after. At the moment he finds it, nothing is added, nothing is staged. The manipulation of the image is entirely in the framing, the composition and his modifications in the focus. The results are photographs of buildings or landscapes and of skies and water that all make you doubt that they really exist. Existing situations seem not to exist, and that which is ‘unreal’ turns out really to be real.
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