Monday, June 22, 2009

AUT 18 - 1000 Austrians: the concept behind the images.

1000 Austrians deals with the visual differences and similarities of the inhabitants of Austria. Convinced by the fact that there is neither the typical Austrian nor the typical Austria, I drew the conclusion, that a viable way of picturing the multidimensional concept of national identity lies in photographing a vast amount of people within their environments.

This approach shall result in a series consisting of 1000 single or group portraits, which will have Autrians and their environment as the topic.

Demographical data such as age, class and percentage of total population will guide me through the process of drawing a sample, which will converge with the real population.

This project clearly owns some debt to August Sander’s work, although it also differs both in the chosen visual approach as well as the chosen subjects: while Sander collected types of people which in his eyes constituted the German society, I will draw a random sample, neither pointing out profession nor anything else, which could lead the viewer in a certain direction.

On an aesthetic level I differ from Sander insofar, as he was strictly commited to what I’d like to call the classical portrait aesthetics. In opposition I choose to work with a rather unusual approach in the field of portraiture: by positing the persons in the middle of the images and choosing a large depth of field I do not put photographic emphasis on the person alone, but also on his/her environment. By choosing this so called formal approach the background has to be discovered as an additional system of information.

This approach is rooted in my sociological education: the questions (=framing, composition) always stay the same, the answers (=persons, places) are different, but only within a given framing.

I find it a dilemma of photography not to be able to be objective, because taking an image is first of all a decision about how to set the frame. In order to get to grips with that, I decided to frame reality always in a similar way. Through similar depth of field and focal length as well as similar distance to and positioning of the photographed, I want to create a typology of the Austrian population.

Through this approach I want to create a feeling of continuity within difference; the photographed will result in a collective called Austria. The individual will stem from the crowd only at a closer look. I expect this formal and typological approach in composition to result in a maximum transparency of the medium. Of course the medium is introduced through the back door again, because it alone is able to create that whole collective called Austria; a classical example of the fact that facing all these photographs, one will not see the camera which took them.

The chosen visual language is influenced by Bernd and Hilla Becher and their typological approach. On the other hand I chose to work with a method of quantitative social research: a large number of “respondents”, choice of respondents by demographic criteria as well as randomization through choice of place first, choice of “respondent” as second step.

The images will be taken in two turns: The first half will be taken in June/July 2009 while the second round will take place the following December/January. This split is important to achieve an adequate picture of the landscape as well as clothing and lifestyle of the population. Through traveling Austria I should become more aware of the specific qualities of the different places as well as their inhabitants. By doing so, I expect to gain a higher degree of objectivity.

The aim of the work is to be exhibited in total, which presents the interested viewer an overview of the many facettes of this country, its population and the concept Austria itself. Additionally I will put a weblog online which will, over the course of a year present three images a day.

The work 1000 Austrians should also ask questions concerning photography as a tool for documentation, about representation and reality. Visually it will deal with being an Austrian, the contrasts between urban and rural environment, cliché and reality. It will also deal with the relation of environment and life, culture and nature, and finally with Austria as unknown home.

Thanks for the attention.


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frames is Florian Rainer's personal collection of photographs, photography related webtipps and writings. frames is focussing on documentary and artistic strategies in photography.

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