"Laurenz BERGES photographed for many years in Duisburg. He found motifs in run-down parts of the city. Now the art association is showing the artist's unsentimental view of a city in upheaval. A bookshop in Cloppenburg, early 1980s. A curly-headed teenager leafing through a photo book. Again and again his gaze stays on one of the sides. He sees emaciated people, poor living conditions, withered landscapes. It is quite possible that the passion for photography and unusual motifs began back then. Today, 49-year-old Laurenz BERGES is one of the most important photographers The photo book that impressed him so much was by Walker EVANS. The American had portrayed the rural population of Alabama in the mid-1930s and captured the consequences of the great economic crisis. The result was a report on the state of the southern states, which had enormous influence on the following generations of artists: Laurenz BERGES is one of them Dusseldorf photographer who has traveled to Duisburg time and again in recent years to photograph shabby house entrances, shabby backyards, underpasses in need of renovation, has a lot to do with his role model, Walker EVANS. What separates Laurenz BERGES from Walker EVANS, however, is that there is no human being in his views of Duisburg. He took over this quirk from Bernd and Hilla BECHER. In the 1990s, Laurenz BERGES studied with the influential couple of photographers at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. Like the BECHERs in their photographs of half-timbered houses and industrial plants, Laurenz BERGES also gives preference to architecture and the built landscape - but he does without the black and white restrictions of his teachers. Complexly constructed and color-differentiated views of weathered corrugated iron garages, house walls from which the paint leaks or boarded-up windows, are the subject of his works, which can now be seen in the Duisburger Kunstverein.
The incidental gains importance. One must be careful not to regard Laurenz BERGES 'recordings as documentation. Rather, each picture is composed. To do this, he works like a researcher. He searches, discovers and chooses. Again and again he goes to areas where he hopes to find his motifs there: With a concentrated gaze, he scans houses, streets and backyards in Marxloh, Ruhrort, Homberg or Bruckhausen. In working-class and migrant districts, red-light districts and industrial plants, there is a very high probability of 'finding walls where all the filth of history is still there'. Laurenz BERGES works precisely and carefully, he himself would formulate it more prosaically with 'I'm not the fastest'. As a result, the artist only does a few projects, but exhausts them. He became known with a series about abandoned barracks of the Soviet Army in East Germany. After the fall of the Wall, Laurenz BERGES only photographed the interiors in daylight. The word interior is too elegant for those empty interiors with their dull, eerie colors and traces of wear and tear. The art historian Thomas Weski Laurenz BERGES once called the 'chronicler of the absent'. Since then, the fact that irrelevant things can gain importance has been his theme. The abandoned barracks were followed by the abandoned lignite mining villages between Cologne and Aachen. But this time the tracker expanded his repertoire. Berges' photographs show not only interiors, but also views from windows and onto landscapes. The decision to leave the protected interior must have been a giant leap for him. Anyone who observes the cautious man feels that he is difficult to enter uncharted territory. He loves to look for familiar and secure things. Laurenz BERGES has been interested in the Ruhr area for over five years. It all started with the order for the Capital of Culture 2010 to make the Ruhr area a topic. His teachers Bernd and Hilla BECHER as well as his now famous fellow students Andreas GURSKY, Candida HÖFER and Thomas STRUTH also took part in the 'Ruhrblicke' project. 'Ruhrblicke' represented a special challenge for Laurenz BERGES, after all, the famous American photographer and filmmaker Robert FRANK had already shot a fictional travelogue about the Ruhr area with 'Hunter'. And Bernd and Hilla BECHER had also repeatedly photographed sites of industrial culture there.
No clichés. Laurenz BERGES regularly travels to Duisburg, then drives his VW through the worn streets while examining the slowly passing industrial landscape, always looking for a motif. Every now and then it stops. For example when the green wall of an old house appears. He has already been here a few times to check whether this old building with its unusually green patina is 'any good'. This time too, Laurenz BERGES finds it difficult to judge because a truck is parked in front of the building. Anything that could affect the beauty of the texture must never be on the picture. In addition, Laurenz BERGES '‹works claim to be timeless. He avoids objects that could give the picture a historical classification. This also includes the truck. And the photographer has set up one more rule: It is important to avoid clichés under all circumstances. Because recordings that reduce the area to smoking chimneys or disused mines are too inflationary. Soaking up the world without prejudice is what he learned from New York photographer Evelyn HOFER, whose assistant was Laurenz BERGES. With Evelyn HOFER he realized that it doesn't matter where and what you photograph, but how. This resulted in the long search for a picture worthy of the motif. If a place, a position or a situation meets Laurenz BERGES 'ideas after many tests, the picture is far from in the box. One can understand that in the literal sense. Because the photographer works with a heavy large format camera that can only be used with a tripod. The construction of the camera is cumbersome and the handling causes a stir. When the artist stands in front of his motif with the yellow blackout cloth that covers his head in front of the camera, passers-by ask what he is actually doing. He always says he is an architecture photographer. That is the easiest. That it is art to photograph an ugly door with a dirty cloth, a charred frieze or dirty doorbell signs takes a bit of visual practice. Laurenz BERGES is guided by his belief in the visible. For him things are an expression of a truth. While the Soviet barracks were looking at a politically changed world, the Duisburg photos were about how to deal with a declining industrial culture. Laurenz BERGES is a politically thinking person. When he talks about the future of the Ruhr area and its people, one wonders: Why does he never photograph people like Walker EVANS or Evelyn HOFER? But like everything with Laurenz BERGES, such a step takes a lot of time." (freely translated, © Christiane Hoffmans, in: A shabby city can look so beautiful, source: http://www.laurenzberges.de/texte/so-schoen-kann- a-run-down-city-work /, visited on 02/28/2020)
"Laurenz BERGES 'regular engagement with the Ruhr area resulted in pictures of the north of the city of Duisburg. He shows himself captivated by a current scene that looks like the opposite side of the present. The images convey an artistic intensity that allows them to develop a peculiar glow." (publisher's note, © Koenig books, 2020)
The 1st and (until now) single print run is sold out at the publisher.
- Laurenz BERGES (GER)
- Heinz Liesbrock
- Book design
- Claudia OTT
- Linen bound HC with dust jacket, 26,5 x 33 x 3 cm., 160 pp., color ills.
- bilingual texts: German / English translation (as inlet)
- Year of Release
- Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Koenig, Cologne
- Print run details
- 1st print run