16 Sep 2011
Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010
I was really knocked out by the Thomas Struth show at the Whitechapel Gallery. It was a retrospective of work he has made since 1978. I have seen his work before in books and admired his precise aesthetic and composition, but seeing the work in the flesh and at real scale was another thing entirely. The photographs all feel larger than life and often are - they tower over you and the colours are super saturated. Many of the locations are unpeopled (except in tiny detail) and the position we are in as the viewer is unsettling. Are we in the picture? Passive observers? Where are we exactly? And even when we know we are in an art gallery looking at big photos, we still feel as if we are looking at the subjects from a very new perspective. There is an uneasy balance in these impressive images between absolute clarity and total mystery - there is always a little more than meets the eye. The questions often seem to be around technology and how it causes us to live and relate to each other and the world. So glad I saw the show. Here's a pic of a half submerged oil rig, but you have to behold the image at scale (about 12 feet across) to really appreciate its power.