18 septembre – 26 octobre 2012
“Mannequin faces in shop windows”
Photography by Johannes Buchmann
We are very pleased to open the academic year 2012-2013 with the first in our series of Artademics; art created by faculty members from EPFL and beyond.
“Street smart” reveals the very professional and stylish work of Johannes Buchmann, internationally established professor of Computer Science and Mathematics at the Technical University Darmstadt, Germany.
The beginning of Johannes Buchmann’s road to photography reads like a young boy’s adventure story. One day, in the house of his grandfather, he stumbled upon a forgotten collection of boxes, stacked away somewhere in a quiet corner. One of his uncles helped him sort out the discoveries and among the many pieces of equipment they found an Agfa camera. He gave it to Johannes who was about 12 years old, and very excited about the treasure. It marked the onset of many years of camerawork. “I felt that was a very special moment in my life,” he recalls. “Among the boxes we even found some of the old flash lights of the type that my grandfather had used. They were small bags filled with black powder called ‘Schwarzpulver.’ A short thread hung out of the bag and when the photographer pulled the string it ‘exploded,’ creating enough light to take the shot.”
In time, Johannes began to experiment with other cameras as well. Initially he focused on documentary photography; of his summer camps for example, or social gatherings within his community. Seminars on composition and technique furthered his expertise. Being an avid traveler he began to expand his work to other countries also. “When you take pictures you may be in very different situations,” he discovered. “During a social gathering you can be a quiet island in a crowd; ‘have’ a person in your lens and yet keep a certain distance because of the camera. Then there are moments that are very confrontational.” While making an international series of home facades in Barbados, Cincinnati, and Cuba, among others, he accidentally discovered some interesting ones in Germany close to his own home. Since this happened at the time that Google began to map the world through Street View, it upset people when they saw a man taking photographs of their houses. “They would come out and shouted that I had to leave.”
Johannes also created beautiful collections of New York fire escapes, doors and general world travels. In 2004, on a trip to Berlington, Vermont, he caught some interesting mannequin faces in a shop window. Those images launched a very different photographic sequence. He captured model faces in Being, Los Angeles, Tokyo; wherever they struck his fancy.
“I used to do series of subjects because I liked to create a certain order in the things around me. Over time, my interest in Buddhism and the effort to live consciously and in the moment have made me more observing of my environment.
I began to develop an eye for detail. We tend to think, for example, that the faces of mannequin dolls are all the same. That may have been true initially, but today they portray an amazing array of different expressions, colors, facial shapes, hair and eyes, not to mention accessories. Without a doubt, photography too has helped me to become aware of the subtleties of life.”
His mannequin faces look so real, that one might wonder if they are actual people. Then again, the smoothness, the features and the sheen on their fabricated skins tell us that they are too perfect to be true.
Johannes discovered that these models respond to male fantasy. “During prior shows men would come up to me and tell me with which type they could and would get along. Somehow our relation with women is an abstract one. The ideal cannot be had.”
Yet it can. The pieces in this sensual, sharp and trendy fall collection can all be bought…
Enjoy the show!
Gusta van Dobbenburgh
Realistic photography of
mannequin faces in shop windows
Show: September 18 – October 26, 2012
Monday through Friday
8h45 – 17h00
Location: ELA Gallery, Room 010
Closing Reception: Thursday, October 25 18h00 – 20h00
Or call +41 (0)21 691 1188