Signposted to the work of Willmann by my tutor, perhaps in response to the rural theme of this work, I have spent the past week visiting and revisiting images from the work entitled ‘Das Land’.
Described by the artists as a ‘land survey of small social space’ , the work is a collection of people, place and object images that have been made in a rual but clearly occupied rural place.
I discovered from an exhibition commentary that Willmann has been continually revisiting the immediate environs of his home in rural Austria. His own ‘Square Mile ‘ project perhaps?
The images are an eclectic mix of portraits of people, animals (including dead ones) in which I am now starting to see a clear set of themes. When I first looked at the work it did appear somewhat random. Before I describe my nascent understanding of Willmann’s work I do want to spend a moment reflecting on his technique.
Using a 6×6 film camera with a flashgun he shoots both inside and outside. This approach produces large square final prints that are all quite bright, he also uses colour very creatively and the palette of the images reminds me a little of the ‘hyper real’ images of Martin Parr. By his own admission (1), Willman talks about the simplicity of his approach that through the use of flash he only need to think about focus, framing and the subject.
The portraits in the work are to my eye somewhat harsh although he has captured people either going about their business or in moment of work. Mixed in are some landscape scenes some of which have an almost surreal quality, the image below being an example.
I don’t get a strong sense of a documentary nature to this work although it is a record of people, place and time. I get a great sense of someone creating images intended to be individual, but connected works of art. There is perhaps a sense of ‘collecting’ and ‘collecting’ over time about the work. It does raise questions with me about the range and purpose of documentary photography, given my sense that this is not a feature of this work. Or is it? I am note sure and will need to return to this theme. Although perhaps a cliched question, my exploration of this and other works is raising far more questions than answers.
Both of theabove images copyright Manfred Willmann.
As is also becoming a feature of my blog I found this interesting although short talk by Willmann himself:
On an entirely separate but related note, my ipad is proving a very valuable tool in its new incarnation as my permanent portable gallery!
1. Comment from Willmann in the above youtube clip