Thursday, 13 October 2011

Researching Thomas Struth

Some of Thomas Struth's photographs really appeal to me visually. Perhaps the sharp, striking black and white structures of the cityscapes and scenes seemingly devoid of life are what makes them eye catching and engage me as a viewer. It seems he photographs a few different subjects but sticks to only these - jungle-like scenes, black and white streets, and groups of people. 

My impression of Struth's city scenes majorly contradicts thoughts about his shots of people: "he captures people observing and therefore we connect with people and places he portrays". It is known that through photographs he attempts to show the relationship between people and their modern day environment. In some it seems there is no relationship.

These photos are part of his earlier work where he has drawn great influence from Bernd and Hilla Becher in the typographical sense. A difference I notice is that I see some emotion in Struth's work, even if only slight, and The Becher's weren't interested in that aspect at all.

A technical choice Struth uses for his photographs is not focussing on and drawing attention to a certain part of the photograph. This causes a large depth of field; everything is sharp and nothing is blurred.

"His work is a sensitive and ample vision of reality without artificial techniques which would divert viewers from the real meaning that the photograph has to communicate."

This analysis relates his simple way of taking photographs to how he wants people to read them simply; read what they are communicating without unnecessary distractions to "divert viewers from the real meaning". The use of the lexis "has to communicate" in particular proves the photograph is making a point. Struth wants to get this point across in his photographs easily. As the saying goes: what you see is what you get. It is a recording of reality.

My favourite photograph of the three is the first. It is the most interesting in my opinion and really attracts my attention. The contrast probably contributes to this which the last photo is somewhat lacking and it seems flatter in general in comparison. Compositionally I can really appreciate the symmetry. Although it's not perfect it seems better this way - much more natural. Complete symmetry would transform the photographs notion - it would seem less realistic and Struth is telling a story through it's theoretical simplicity. There is still a sense of real balance and the proportional lines and textures all make the photograph really nice to look at and explore. How the car draws you in, manages not to through off the balance and doesn't detract from the rest of the photograph is really effective and in my eyes, makes the image very successful. I like the sense of desertion and how the image seems devoid of life or at least like time has stopped (the stationary car waiting at the stop sign) but not in an eerie or uncomfortable way. It just seems calm.

There are some obvious similarities which each of the three photograph's of Struth's share; some of which I have mentioned already. These are:
  • the large depth of fields to cause everything to have equal rights within the images
  • the proportional lines and accurately portrayed structure of the buildings
  • the flat and uninteresting sky (similar to the Becher's work)
  • and most of all, the streets fading into the distance drawing your eyes with them - the dominating sense of perspective

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