It”s always valuable to hear first hand from the photographer the ideas behind his or her work. During her talk, Rut Blees-Luxemburg described herself as an ‘artist photographer’. The themes she touched on included:
- ‘modernity not fully accepted’, for example, the stigma attached to high rise flats in London
- ‘participation in the city’ – particularly from the feminist perspective of photographing subjects such as multi-storey car parks at night, places that might be potentially dangerous for a woman
- the many ways in which a photograph could be read.
By way of illustration, in a commissioned project for London Underground Blees-Luxemburg chose to photograph the names of the stations reflected in puddles outside the buildings. She then added a further layer of meaning to some of the images by cropping in camera to select groups of letters whose meaning was transformed by virtue of being a reflected mirror image. For example a section of a station name that in reality spelt “wood” was transformed into “mood”. I think this is a great example of a photographer developing and refining their vision and creating surprising, intriguing and original work that adds new meaning to the project.
There was further exploration of the multiple readings of photographs within an image of the mangled wreckage of a car. Naturally the viewer’s first instinct is to imagine the traumatic nature of the crash. However, the car was in fact a training vehicle used by the Fire Brigade and the damage had been caused as they practised cutting victims out of the car. This was an interesting example of how the viewer’s knowledge of context can significantly alter their reading of a photograph. Such techniques have long been used within advertising photographs, in particular I recall images of a running youth where the initial reaction of the viewer was that it was a criminal running away – but in fact it was someone running towards someone in order to help.
Much of Blees-Luxemburg’s work was influenced by poetry and music. She showed a particularly striking image of an anthropomorphic ‘evil’ face, that, influenced by a chilling song, she had found in the marble cladding of a building facade in Paris.
The things I will particularly take away from this presentation are the quality of the thinking behind the images and also Blees-Luxemburg’s way of working. She described herself as being so immersed in the reading and music that inspire her that when she sets out to make the images they almost leap out at her. Intriguingly, she makes only around 12 images a year.
Her images can be found on Rut Blees Luxemburg. In June 2011 she was nominated for the Discovery Award 2011 at the Recontres d’ Arles.