Vancouver Art Gallery Andreas Gursky: Werke/Works 80-08:

Dates and Venue 30 May-20 September |Vancouver Art Gallery

Andreas Gursky’s photographs are widely celebrated as some of the most compelling images of our modern world. The Vancouver Art Gallery will be the only North American museum to present Andreas Gursky: Werke/Works 80-08 the largest and most comprehensive exhibition to survey this renowned German artist’s remarkable career.

99 cent was photographed in 1999 when Gursky visited North America. In the US and in Canada, discount stores are a common phenomenon. We have Dollaroma, Dollar stores, etc. But for Gursky, this was something he'd never seen before and as he guided us through his photographs, he explained that this was a unique phenomenon for him and that's why he took this picture. Apparently, dollar and other discount stores don't exist in Europe.

Another photo that intrigued me was Hamm, Bergwerk Ost. 2008. I asked him who hung up all those miners' clothes and equipment, and he said he did it himself! I was amazed and commented, "Meticulous!" In his other photographs, I noticed this same attention to detail: people gathered as though randomly, but apparently, all staged.

His earlier photos were simple landscapes and small scale. He pointed out to us during the guided tour that his first photo was Dusseldorf Airport, because he lived close by. But then, there were other airports photographed in grand scale, such as Berlin airport, and so I asked why so many airports, and he said he liked traveling a lot. Pictures of a highway in Bahrain, a water tank in Japan, and others showed how widely traveled he is.

His last photos are immense, and he mentions that part of his evolution as a photographer is that he has evolved from the small-scale landscape photographer to a one that likes his photos on a bigger scale. Another aspect in his later photos is not just taking reality as it is, but rather, like a fiction writer, takes reality and creates something new, manipulating his work artistically. An example he gave was the Bahrain landscape, a huge photograph, whereby he took pictures from a helicopter of the desert and the highways but manipulated them artistically, so that sometimes you could see roads that end or go nowhere.

© 2009 Ed Farolan