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Photography Masters - Andreas Gursky
Sunday Magazine

Photography Masters - Andreas Gursky

Siddharth S. Kumar

Siddharth S. Kumar

Born in 1955 in Leipzig, Germany, in a family of photographers, he got to study photography under conceptual photographers, Professor Bernd Becher and his wife Hilla, where Gursky was deeply influenced by the Bechers’ photographs of disappearing industrial architecture.

Soon enough Gursky came to be known for his dazzling large-scale photographs, encompassing the modern world, and its landscapes, people, architecture and industries. The uniqueness of Gursky was to allow viewers to assimilate more than what our eyes alone do by subtly enhancing and adjusting the structure of the overwhelming visual settings. Essentially, Gursky’s images show the individual or granular—supermarket products, soccer players, windows on a building, or islands in the sea—which are shot from an elevated perspective and produced on an epic scale.

99 Cent. Inspired and fascinated by the sight of a dollar store window at night on his first trip to Los Angeles, Andreas Gursky composed a massive-sized photograph at nearly 7ft x 10ft, called 99 Cent. The photograph shows ranks of 99-cent goods lining the aisles of a California bargain store wherein the reflection of merchandise in the mirrored ceiling radiates a sense of claustrophobia and forces the viewer to confront the details of an overwhelming number of brightly packaged objects.
99 Cent. Inspired and fascinated by the sight of a dollar store window at night on his first trip to Los Angeles, Andreas Gursky composed a massive-sized photograph at nearly 7ft x 10ft, called 99 Cent. The photograph shows ranks of 99-cent goods lining the aisles of a California bargain store wherein the reflection of merchandise in the mirrored ceiling radiates a sense of claustrophobia and forces the viewer to confront the details of an overwhelming number of brightly packaged objects.

Years later he made a related piece, 99 Cent II, Diptych of two Ninety-Nine Cent store interiors which catapulted Gursky to iconic status, as it became the world’s most expensive photograph selling for £1.7m at Sotheby’s in London at that time.

Gursky’s signature style is embodied in his super-sized digitally manipulated photographs which sometimes are so large that they can be printed only in a commercial lab. No wonder, Gursky was the first to produce prints that measured as large as 6 × 8 feet or larger.

Rhine II. By joining photographs of different segments of the river Rhine, Gursky in Rhein II, measuring 5 × 10 feet, created a nonexistent section of the Rhine River, and recreated a completely new landscape, free of industry and human presence. The outcome was a composition of astonishing colour and precise geometry, resembling a colour-field painting. Rhein II sold at Christie's New York, for $4.3 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold.
Rhine II. By joining photographs of different segments of the river Rhine, Gursky in Rhein II, measuring 5 × 10 feet, created a nonexistent section of the Rhine River, and recreated a completely new landscape, free of industry and human presence. The outcome was a composition of astonishing colour and precise geometry, resembling a colour-field painting. Rhein II sold at Christie's New York, for $4.3 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold.

Speaking about his unique approach to photography Gursky says, “In retrospect I can see that my desire to create abstractions has become more and more radical. Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind something… My images are a lot about space, but that doesn’t mean it is space that is unlimited. Space for me is a metaphor for the way we as mankind travel through space at home and on our planet. And the universe is huge and we are so limited in our perception and this is one of the things I want to show in my images.”

Salerno I. Gursky tells that he was overwhelmed by what he saw from this photo due to the complexity of the elements in it. There are leading lines that lead the eye from the bottom left of the frame towards the center and finally towards the horizon with mountains. There is symmetry and contrasting colours (of the cars) that create a visual interest in the photograph.
Salerno I. Gursky tells that he was overwhelmed by what he saw from this photo due to the complexity of the elements in it. There are leading lines that lead the eye from the bottom left of the frame towards the center and finally towards the horizon with mountains. There is symmetry and contrasting colours (of the cars) that create a visual interest in the photograph.

Today, as Gursky lives and works in Dusseldorf, Germany, his works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern in London.

Undoubtedly Gursky reimagined photography for posterity. The traditional wisdom of sticking to truth-recording photography was challenged by his unfettered use of digital manipulation. Gursky’s reliance on digital photography and digital processing raised questions on the conventional approach that photography should not manipulate truth.

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Siddharth Kumar is the Co-Founder & Lead Photographer SIDART Photography, a professional photography venture focusing on weddings, portraiture and commercial photography. After an 8-year stint in an MNC, he decided to pursue his passion for photography and music. In 2019, he was awarded Certificate of Honorable Mention by International Photography Awards (IPA), Los Angeles. In 2014, he won the First Prize at the International Photography Competition organized by Mindshare Worldwide. He holds a Grade 8 Certificate in Piano Performance from Trinity College London.