Between August Sander and Vermeer
– People turned away from the viewer
– Faceless portraits
– Barely recognisable
Taking pictures of people without getting too close to them – capturing identity, depicting who the person is, and honouring how she chooses to present herself, what defines her.
In her series about Folk Costumes, the Düsseldorf-based photographer and filmmaker Corina Gertz presents women in the traditional costumes. Colour, patterns, and traditional craftsmanship – like a code, similar to a tattoo, decoration, and ornamental painting of indigenous tribes – provide information about local heritage, as well as personal and social status, and reflect identity, highlighting individuality without privileging the individual.
In a reversal of August Sander’s hard everyday realism, his series about workers and farmers, to Jan Vermeer’s paintings of self-confident bourgeois splendor.
Despite the distanced view, the darkness of the image space produces warmth and affectionate losenesso the motif. The individual’s personality thrives on the expression of her costume, and thus on her tradition – telling history, proclaiming the present.
The mode of representation respectfully presents individuals who display themselves in their regional, but individual costume, in a reserved, solemn, blissful way. The tailor-made costumes have been handed down over generations and are evidence of long-forgotten craftsmanship. The approach attains the same effect as Vermeer, by using light, focusing on the motif, and highlighting the colours sporadically – the motif becomes haptically tangible. The portrait, liberated from the face, turning away but always present, reduced to the essential, colour, surface, shape, distilled in utmost clarity and concentration, exaggerated in its own abstraction.
Text by D. W. Marschall