Looking and Seeing

The photograph below titled, ”Pergamon Museum IV”, is by Photographer Thomas Struth, take some time to look at it, and imagine seeing this work, a chromogenic print, face-mounted to Plexiglas 62 7/10 × 92 2/5 in in scale. 

The subtle variations of colour and the soft, even light, balance, vantage point and all the other technical achievements made this photograph possible, but there is more. The photographer, how he came to construct this photograph, his past knowledge, previous engagements, his sense of story and the actors, the casual spectators, perhaps aware of the photo being taken but unaware of how the photograph was going to be presented. This photograph crosses several trajectories, some I’m sure I’m too naive to comprehend at this juncture. However, in my eyes, the work describes the viewer, the spectator, amongst ancient western artifacts. Where the past meets the present, civilization old and new are joined, and both the spectator and artifacts assume a similar role, equal in size, while I humbly stumble in, late to the party, like a classic theatrical performance. Still, in this reality, I’m viewing it today, not in front of the actual work, but from the comfort of my home, in Canada and not in Germany, several years after it was taken. The photo was dated 2001. Both artifact and spectator appear the same, from a past time linked now by a computer screen. 

More about Struth and his work:

Thomas Struth: http://www.thomasstruth32.com/smallsize/index.html

On a similar note, looking and seeing are two different modes of engagement. One is passive, whereas the other involves the senses. Can you guess which modes I am referring to?

While writing this post, I am reminded of the late John Berger, an art critic, artist and writer, my hero, who describes this process far better than I can in his book, Ways of Seeing, which was later televised by the BBC, presented as a mini-series.  You can see the first part here:


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