Wolfgang Arnold

Wolfgang Arnold

Fine art photography

by Wolfgang Arnold (Germany)

To me photography is a creative balance to a business- and technology-centered main job. It’s a means to transform my perception into tangible symbols – picking ‘nuggets of order’ from the mostly chaotic stream of consciousness. While not focusing on a particular subject or genre, I’m rather aiming at clear and concise compositions that convey a sense of order or pattern across various subjects.

Portfolio from the Fine Art Photography workshop with Roger Ballen, September 2013.

Written review by MARTA DAHÓ,
Independent curator and teacher of History of photography

Dear Wolfgang,

I will start to comment on the portfolio even if I would like to comment some of the statement's aspects that could be improved. The first image of both trees crossing each other is highly suggestive and offers a sober and elegant opening. The problem is that then the same energy is not maintained but goes progressively diminishing and only catches us up again with the picture n°10. Here the selection of very different series or projects does not play in your favor because it does not allow to stick out to what they suggest, neither the heterogeneous selection helps to highlight a technical ability or a more personal expression.

Said more frankly: we don't get the sense of the author that is behind, neither of the professional technician, despite the fact that both areas are pretended to being addressed. Seen as a whole, the portfolio suffers a lack of internal coherence and does not offer a good portrait of you. Maybe the best would be to go for 2 portfolios: one more technical, dedicated to show your formal abilities, and another one your personal projects.

For example, if the trees project is important to you, in that case, I would suggest to include more images and offer more visual information on your work and the proposal it offers, especially if this is a series which – just like in the masters oeuvre that have inspired you – works by accumulation.

Following with the portfolio, we encounter a decisive image, the n°5; which could be very interesting. It's an image with mystery and I suppose, it is a key to articulate something that remains unclear: we have for one part, the trees project and for another part, studio images with flowers which, maybe, are closer to the academic exercise than professional project.

The statement should be improved on the conceptual and writing aspects, especially to reflect the central nucleus of your practice: your interests, your proposition, what your investigation consists in, your questions, your search.

Rigor and meticulosity are missing in the expression. The concept of “nuggets of order”, for example, is being repeated twice and its effect is doubled by the use of comas, but what it is referring to, this supposed metaphor, is not very clear and it's essential to explain it well. Personally, I would avoid the word ‘nugget’ which could implicate a mental image a bit hybrid between a piece of chicken, a pearl and a golden nugget.

I am pretty sure you can find better expressions to pass on what you want to. I recommend you to read the Fotomuseum Winterthur “Still Searching” blog: http://blog.fotomuseum.ch and this link: http://500letters.org/form_15.php.

Between the portraits, the n°10 seems to me the most interesting image, I would even say it is the most attractive of all the portfolio. It would be great if you could work in this direction and start something from this point of incandescence which is generated in the shape of how you live the glance of who you're portraying. If in addition the slogan was 'to meet one's self in the other' which is, without a doubt, a fascinating and necessary proposal, I believe that it would be very good that you give yourself the opportunity to take more risks, go beyond the 'right thing', allow yourself a bit of chaos. http://500letters.org/form_15.php It could happen that in this “chaos” you discover something new about yourself rather than this inclination to familiar order that does not allow you to achieve this discovery.

If I say this, it is because in those images made according to the idea to 'represent terms or opposed concepts' or in others where we can feel the contrary search (analogies), this dialog between opposed concepts and analogies seems a little straight forward. You have a certain sensibility that is not communicated through a subtile, nuanced and precise expression. Without a doubt, this imbalance is found in the tricks that link your moment experience and your relationship to the camera. For some of them, it is very important to forget about it in order to find oneself in the images, for others, it is necessary to operate from this lively conscience with the body of the instrument.

A very important italian photographer, Guido Guidi, did comment on various occasions that the camera is rude: it does not know what is correct, it needs to be guided, indicated, otherwise it does stupid things...but that to him, following those wrong habits brought him very often to real discoveries. To resume, it is about looking with less prejudices, less expectations of what we think we see.

If what you are focusing on in your practice is really this interest for order, I would recommend you that you have a look into youngest authors like Paul Salveson (www.paul-salveson.com), (http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2013/april/paul-salveson-mack-first-book); Eva Stenram (http://www.evastenram.co.uk); ClareStrand (www.clarestrand.co.uk); Ben Alper (http://benalper.com), Aleix Plademunt, especially, his latest book Almost There (http://photobookny.com/news/2013/4/26/almost-there-by-aleix-plademunt); all of them, debtors of this mythical book which was Evidence, from Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel (http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=PK908) which is evidently mandatory to read for someone interested in photography.

I hope those brief notes will stimulate you in achieving your own way with courage, freedom and the company of a lot of friends with common interests.

Good luck!


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