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Every year, a half-dozen or so winners of Gute Aussichten, Germany’s competition for young photographers, mount their work at Goethe-Institut. Several of the artists in this year’s show offer inspired, if imperfect, experiments in technique.
Karolin Back captures the same image—-the oft-photographed peak of the Matterhorn—-through a variety of media, including projections and prints made on aluminum. At times, the images possess an almost three-dimensional grain that transforms a cloud at the mountain’s peak into a darkly compelling plume.
Meanwhile, Stefanie Schroeder melds photography with video in a simple yet ingenious fashion. She takes dozens of images with a digital camera, then quickly runs through them, one by one, on a monitor—-the modern-day equivalent of a zoetrope turning simple stills into moving images. She used this technique to document a variety of low-level jobs she held—-not all of which, alas, are interesting enough to justify the effort.
Jannis Schulze takes a traditional approach to documenting hardscrabble areas of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the vibe is casual and intimate, but his work utilizes some non-traditional media in the process. Surprisingly effective are a few washed-out images printed on what appears to be newsprint, an appealingly retro choice. One image, a languid seascape, is split into quadrants by vertical and horizontal folds, like an honest-to-goodness print newspaper.
Andrea Grützner pays attention to architectural details in depictions of interior spaces in an old tavern. But Grützner’s photographs don’t depict a dark, wood-paneled space; the images are limned in surprisingly cheerful shades of green, yellow, and red, and they display the rigid, spare, airy geometry of a Charles Sheeler painting.
Two photographers take distinctly opposite approaches to documentary photography. Katharina Fricke photographs the unassuming visual details of 13 neighborhood walks. The series coheres, thanks to the same cloudy light harnessed in the famed architectural images of Bernd and Hilla Becher as well as the photographer’s strong preference for humdrum structural details rather than people. Kolja Warnecke takes the opposite approach: She turns her documentary lens on one particular individual, “Bea,” a middle-aged, working-class woman. Collectively, Warnecke’s images communicate a grim pathos and an empathy for her subject’s lot, from Bea’s bleak building (top) to her cramped living space.
Of the eight artists, the most technically accomplished is easily Eduard Zent. He produces large inkjet prints (middle) that mimic the black-background, impeccably detailed style of the Dutch Masters, but with subjects who are thoroughly modern and notably diverse, from the South Asian woman in a flowing dress to an African man in traditional garb holding a pair of neon-green soccer cleats.
Ultimately, though, the exhibit’s most poignant images are those by Marvin Hüttermann. In just a few images, he documents the A to Z of death, from the empty spaces where the recently deceased once lived to unflinching portrayals of what the post-mortem body becomes. At times, Hüttermann locates a quiet elegance, as in a tableau of a drooping branch and a vase framed by a curtain, but in other cases, such as the photograph of a body burning mid-cremation (above), the horror is all too vivid. For a competition featuring young photographers, Hüttermann’s depiction of the departed is the ironic pièce de résistance.
Through April 30 at Goethe-Institut, 812 Seventh Street, NW. Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.