Once again as I was preparing for a study group with fellow peers on the course I was recommended another photographer after Uta Barth in the previous session. And once again it was a nice surprise. Sonja Braas, like Barth is a German born photographer and like Barth now lives in the US.
If there is one word I would use to describe her work it is ‘atmospheric’. They are windows into otherworldly landscapes and events. Of places that are perceptually familiar due to our exposure to images and artworks that have depicted nature which, for many, are the only reference point. As such “Braas works with the assumption that a photograph is inherently truthful.” (Edkins, 2013).
The first series that got my attention was The Passage (see fig. 1.) which aesthetically is very similar to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes. The polar-esque landscapes are the same composition with a central horizon line separating two elements, air and water. However the biggest divergence imaginable here is that the images are in fact constructions. As Braas puts it, she wants the viewer “to be overwhelmed by it and impressed by it, to go to it and want to see it and then, even be more effective when you do find out that it’s not real.”
In all her work she creates models in her studio, largely based on a predetermined vision. Sometimes they are influenced by encounters she has with a landscape such as in Forces (see fig. 2.), which she then recreates before photographing them. They show the powerfully deceptive talent of the photograph, questioning what is real, what images do we predetermine in our mind and expect to see in places, more succinctly put …”she addresses the idea of a certain media-influenced image of nature and the complex world around the individual.” (Galerie Tanit, 2016).
Once again like Barth and Sugimoto, I appreciate a strong sense of craft. Although it is not the kind of constructive control I would envisage in my work. I am more reflective, or (in my notations) impulsive, responding to what is around me. My biggest controlling force is composition which is what I have been challenging myself in my shadowgram experiments. But even there, unlike the photograms of Moholy-Nagy, my approach is more meditative, supportive of my Eastern influences.
Recalling a conversation with my tutor Robert who commented that ‘no one does craft like artists from Germany and Japan’. As an interesting coda to this period of research; Photographers I have looked at such as Thomas Ruff and and both Barth and Braas, who have been referred to me by a fellow peer are all German. Together with my own interest in Sugimoto, who is Japanese, suggests both a conscious and subconscious gravitation towards a clear region of defined interest and genre that can support and contrast my developing personal voice. Which I would conclude is a satisfactory starting point for the course.
Braas, S (no date) Available at: https://www.sonjabraas.com (Accessed on 07.10.18)
Edkins, D. (2013) ‘Elements of a Vision’. In: Braas, Sonja Sonja Braas So Far. Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag.
Galerie Tannit (no date) Available at: https://www.galerietanit.com/artist/braas (Accessed on 07.10.18)
Interview Sonja Braas [interview online] Gwin Zegal (2016) 9 mins At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVxj7AaZzBE (Accessed on 07.10.18)