29 December 2008

C/O Berlin: wowe and Berndt

Just a quick post as I'm in an internet cafe in Berlin and my time's running out.

I saw two great exhibits at C/O Berlin today. The first is Essence, featuring approximately 200 portraits by German photographer, wowe. The second, Insight, features 60 photos and a video work by American photographer, Jerry Berndt.

Essence: wowe has taken portraits of many of the world's most famous figures, though particularly art and music luminaries. His works have a particular spacial awareness and manipulation of scale which intrigues me. The subjects are often dwarfed by their surrounds or alternatively rendered giant by wowe's subtlety with anlges. Incidental or posed objects appear magically human-size - blown-up - in one portrait and undersized - shrunken - in the next. He plays with the frame, too, often placing the subject at the bottom of it rather than centred as is portraiture's tradition. He gives his subjects head-space, so to speak. There is very much an element of surreality to these otherwise very 'real' (i.e. visually revealing) portraits.

Insight: Berndt's works are quite different: Stolen glimpses of the seedy goings-on of Boston pimps and prostitutes in the late 1960s; a series of bars, complete with middle-aged men sipping liquer, dragging on cigarettes or leaning into their empty glasses; night-scapes of empty residential and city spaces; and The Babies, a group of photographs of his daughter Emma's dolls in various scenarios. The works as a whole are dark and slightly unnerving in both content and style. All in black & white, apart from The Babies, there is a feeling of reportage teamed with conceptual photography. The blur he employs in many shots works particularly well in the pimps and prostitutes works, giving them an ironic romance. Berndt isn't imposing himself on these scenarios, however, rather letting them come to him and speak for themselves.

If you are in Berlin I highly recommend you see these shows. Tickets are €7/€5 reduced, which includes both exhibits. C/O Berlin is at Oranienburger Straße/Tucholskysraße 10117 Berlin and the show runs through until February 15. For more info visit www.co-berlin.info. (Pics courtesy of co-berlin.info).


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