Dr. Christiane Stahl


Layer by layer to the interference pattern


FIORE is the name of the 2 meter panorama of a mountainous landscape. FIORE. Why FIORE? There is no flower pictured here, we only see trees. So keep watching. We look at a historical photo, there is no doubt, because the scratches, scratches and blemishes are not to be overlooked. In the lower left corner, even a thick line runs through the picture, which looks as if it were stirring from a break in the glass negative. There are a lot of white lint in the picture. And defects in the gelatin layer. In a good state of preservation, the recording is not. Historical material or not, but the destruction is still massively massive. In any case, a cleaning would not have hurt. Let's take a look, because the artist will have thought something of it.

An elongated lake or river winds its way through the coniferous-covered mountains. On both banks car roads lead into the depths. Across the lake slides a historic, massive railroad bridge on the other side of the lake - where to go? Leading to nothing. There is no tunnel. It just ends there. And then the highway on the right bank: she stands on bridge pillars. A bridge directly on the lake shore? Strange. But well, why not, is mountainous. On the left side of the road, however, we discover, even closer to the shore, another railroad track. And on the left bank, the cars then drive directly onto the railway bridge. At least now it is clear: something is wrong. And are we even looking at historical material? In the 19th century, there were no highway bridges. Also no motorhomes and electric street lighting. It can not be a contemporary shot of the artist, the cars look like American giant sledges from the late 60s, when you could still spill gallons of gasoline, then had Anschütz still no driver's license and he did not live in the US.

At first glance, UTRUP seems to want to be stored as an industrial panorama taken from the air, which in epic width invites for a closer look. But quickly there are disagreements in the transitions. The slip roads cut through the factory building, the parking deck in the center of the picture is completely unmotivated surrounded by a curved road that leads into one of the buildings, the individual buildings have a dangerous inclination, as if they collapse at any time. And anyway: why, for example, are the streets so littered with muddy branches?

The confusion is intentional. And yet it should remain untangeable for everyone. Because it is not difficult to see after a short time that the pictures consist of several shots. Thomas Anschütz layers pictures, juxtaposes them and blends them together, and builds new urban spaces that can only be opened up at the second and third views. Or not. The wandering gaze lingers here and there, an immense wealth of detail facilitates the recognition, the riddling becomes a search game, in which one does not always know where which scene begins and where it ends.

In any case, one would like to know soon where the respective picture was taken, who the author is and from when it dates. So I want to provide the solution to the riddle immediately: The works described above are based on high-res scans, which the Library of Congress has made of works from their photo archive and put on their website. Anyone can download the high-resolution data. Free of charge. You just have to have a good and big computer. The image that underlies FIORE is called "Columbia River Highway" and is from the year 1968. Next to it, in between, below and above, are two more images from the Library of Congress, with parts literally pushed one inside the other. Other games have been highlighted by a contrasting lighting or moved into the background. The digital fine work on the computer is quite similar to the analog work in the darkroom. Here and there parts of the picture are exposed more or less weakly, with stencils, by dodging and all sorts of darkroom gnomes that demand experience. The image appears slowly in the developer shell, the light emerges from the dark - the process is not unlike that of computer processing.

The pictures assembled in ETKAL are also from the Library of Congress. It shows a Mexican train station, probably around the turn of the century, the European-looking architecture in the background shows the Spanish influence of Mexican architecture. On the left we see the remains of burned buildings from the fire of San Francisco in 1906.

But that does not explain the peculiar wooden structure on the motorway routes in our industrial panorama UTRUP. Here, Anschütz has created his own photographs as a further layer of images. He used to take a melting blanket of snow on a meadow with grassy spots exposed by the sun. That's not all. But the effect is amazing.

So even at ESNEL is a layer of natural surrogates over the inclusion of an American steam locomotive. The surface is illuminated by ice crystallizations, which give the picture a cold atmosphere. Technology - the railroad - and natural form - the ice - are intertwined here to give an expression of cool precision, to which the perceived cold of low temperatures joins. The visually visible elements of the technique are associated with a level of emotion that moves deeply in each of us. Nature and technology are interwoven into a new unity, evoking atavistic sentiments inscribed in each one of us.

We also see shots of spaceships and rockets, which Anschütz got in the net from NASA, whose pictures are also publicly available in very high resolution. They are overlaid with aerial photographs of cities and technical details that have a different technical dimension. The Sputnik in FOKAL hovers like the ghost of a space capsule in front of the sea of ​​lights of the ancient Temple Mount Cairo. The Apollo 13 in SPUCA is surrounded by circular mechanical small parts, about the origin and benefit of which no statement can be made.

Anschütz says he "cultivates the edges". Many of the signs of wear on the recordings are indeed genuine. But only insofar as they were generated analogously, often by means of massive temporal acceleration. Often Anschütz ran around with a photo under the shoe brine or buried pictures and exposed them to physical influences. The analogue images are then scanned and stored in digital folders in which the supposed destruction of the image surface is preserved, sorted and ironically named by the artist as "Dr. Anschütz 'collected scratches ". From this hat conjures Dr. Anschütz's various defects, which he puts over the layers of photographic material that have been put together to form a whole: molten snowfields appear like flaking off of the gelatine layer; Drops of water look like bubbles thrown up by heat; white fissures are associated with a glass negative fracture, white fuzz becomes dust deposits on the negative, black lint becomes residue on the positive. The mathematical of the digital and mechanical is counteracted by the reference to the historicity of things. When technical things jump, they lose their perfection.

Nostalgia is a program and has to do with Anschütz's biography. His father worked for the company Leitz in Wetzlar as a precision mechanic in the lens production department for projection lenses and kept several documents of the technical equipment which he co-developed. In his library there were many textbooks on how to avoid picture interference in photography. A good source if you want to consciously cause these disturbances. Many slides, negatives and things from this private archive have signs of wear and tear that have cracks and kinks that cause injury. Injuries, as they are also suitable for life. The scars are only ever more, many traces remain, some visible, some invisible. The patina of things is reminiscent of the historicity in which every human life is inscribed.

But also Anschütz's passion for technical things and connections stems from it. "My father often brought small metal objects from work, things that, for example, fit together exactly or had a thread on which you could screw another part. Basically, these were completely nonfunctional objects that could perhaps have been a machine in an ordered totality; but in their simplicity they express only a relationship of two or three parts. "

So he not only used images from the network, but also photographic templates from his father's archive. In Flara I and Flara II we discover milled things in a mechanical engineering context, parts of stereomicroscopes and projection equipment, or the inscription "wiss.-phys. Laboratory". Here, the technical round shape of the coils and metal plates is superimposed by round lily pads, which are applied with felt-tip numbers. One of these instruments is a Vakuumheiztisch, which forms so-called interference pattern. If you throw stones into the water, they form rings that eventually overlap. These interfaces, which in their form may also be of acoustic, optical or material origin, form a new perspective structure called interference patterns. In this sense Anschütz understands the overall structure of his pictures: the different historical materials clash and he gets layer by layer to a new interference pattern in which reminiscent of the past resonate. The process is similar to that in music, which is why he speaks of "sound": "The mixture of images creates a new image, new structures that, as in the phenomenon of interference, can be emphasized, but also extinguished. They create a new sound. Drawing on both sources, the interfaces are merging into new, harmonious structures. [...] The aim of my work is to fuse the individual layers of the image into a chord that creates a harmony. "

It should not be forgotten that Thomas Anschütz comes from painting. Even though he did not undergo a typical Folkwang school education and did not learn photography, he can not be described as an autodidact. Because he has learned everything from the father. There are many memories of the darkroom work, of the picture water, of taking pictures with the Leica IIIf, which the father has saved as an apprentice. It's no coincidence that he always holds a camera or lenses or photos on children's photos. He refined the photograph while studying in Kassel with Floris Neusüss, but she was the model for his painting. From there, the photography has become independent. In his photography, the motifs flow into each other as in his almost non-objective paintings.

The pictures titled Flara I and Flara II represent the birth of the whole series Prado 250. Why Prado 250? Prado 250 was the name of a gray-lacquered slide projector developed by Leitz, which his father had brought home. Anschütz's memory of childhood is marked by the slide parties, when the father threw fairy-tale illustrations on the wall and turned the living room into a chapel. The light of the projector broke through the darkness and the fairy tale stories received a visual component through which the intensively experienced could not fall prey to oblivion.

The peculiar-looking picture titles are technical designations from the 1931 brochure "Leica camera", which the father had kept. Anschütz has made scans of these titles from the booklet and attached them next to his pictures as part of the work, so that they give a sensual reference to the origin of the series. The titles seem almost like biblical or Nordic names, but actually designate the thing. So KAZWO is called "cassette with two film holders", Flara "orange filter" (flare, the orange filter reduces) and FIORE "UV filter, Aufschraubfilter for the lens, Fio = ultraviolet?" Prado probably does not refer to the museum in Madrid, but possibly means quite unlyrically "projection apparatus." Above the list is "codeword" as if it were espionage, here resonates in addition to the lyrical connotation of a German designation addiction.

Anschütz has compiled and edited the collages themselves on the computer, which is by no means self-evident when one knows how much help a Thomas Gursky, for example, has to use to complete his work. Anschütz has taught digital imaging for several years at the New School of Photography.


Although the analogue technique and the experiences of working in the darkroom to this day shape his entire work, he is a master in this field. And not only that. In his studio in Strausberg he produced the pictures on his own printer, which conceals the prints themselves, mounted the laminated pictures themselves and framed the whole thing himself. For the frame wood, he used two different wood stains and then waxed the wood so that the frames are reminiscent not only of their color, which varies between brown and black, but also of their scent on railway sleepers. With the presentation form he wants to evoke reminiscences of technical things like cars, railways and aircraft. Not only with the picture material but also with the presentation form should childhood memories be awakened, which are sleeping in each one of us. Try it out: first look at the picture closely, then close your eyes, take a sniff at the frame - and maybe even in your inner mind's eye, visual and emotional elements will merge into a new, private interference pattern.