Karl Petzke

karl-petzke
Karl Petzke

The troubled landscape

by Karl Petzke (USA)


Portfolio from the The troubled landscape workshop with Todd Hido, November 2014.

Written review by PAULINE VERMARE,
Associate Curator, International Center of Photography

It was a great visual pleasure to go through Karl’s portfolio: the mood, the colors, the blacks and whites, the subtlety of his gaze and the poetry if his imagery, made for a very pleasant and unique journey. I like his distance and his relationship with his subject matter, be it the women or the street. His universe is a sensual one, suave, and inviting.

The portfolio works as a whole -some images are weaker than others. The opening scene, that dimly lit street, is a beautiful photograph. That green tone is at the same time soothing and ominous, I love the yellow and white and green combination, as the texture of the stones melting with that of the tree and leaves.

Portraits number 2 and 4 are excellent: subtle, delicate, feminine, touching, all at once. The distance is perfect with the subject matter: the back, the profile, there is a respect and an emotion that are palpable. I am particularly drawn to the texture of image 2, the light in the hair, the texture of the coat, there is something similar to Ed van der Elsken’s Love on the Left Bank, that I find very precious.

I also love image number 11, a little more on the fashion side of it, but beautifully composed, lit and observed. It has the subtlety and delicacy of a Dutch painting, with that northern white light washing the canvas. Image number 13 is very sweet, perhaps a little posed and artificial but still lovely and delicate. Very feminine. The last image, number 14, is not very strong per se but it closes the portfolio perfectly, like an invitation to get out of the frame and explore other lands. Image 9 is an odd one, darker and mysterious. It is a good dramatic pause, and very good lighting (reminiscent of Gregory Crewdson’s). I like the tension it provokes in the midst of the other, more tender, images.

Images 6 and 12, in all their blur and romanticism, are good photographs - a little too staged for my taste but they are very well composed, and make for very good fashion shots. Karl is equally good in color and black and white, and I love the back and forth between these two universes and techniques. The choice of color versus black and white is always appropriate, and, in fact, this back and forth creates a beautiful illusion of colors in his black and white photographs. His sense of composition is excellent, and so is the distance between himself and his subjects.

I am less attracted by the more staged images, the more frontal ones, where the subject seems too aware and self-conscious. They don’t appeal to me as much as the other ones. Images 3, 5, 7 and 10 are not bad photographs but they are too still, too static, perhaps too clear: I remain on the surface. They are lovely photographs but they don’t have the emotional impact that the others have. In a sense, they enhance the stronger photos’ impact and create a pace that is very good.

It was a treat to discover Karl’s images, a truly delightful moment. In this portfolio, he is showing a lot of talent and sincerity. I particularly love his more abstract work - the ghostly street, the womanly lines, the nervous knees, the fleeing birds. I would encourage him to go further in this poetic direction.


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