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Balthasar Burkhard

Bernina 09, 2003
black-and-white photograph
125.0 x 250.0 cm
A few years after shooting the Collection Pictet’sAlpen (1994-1999), Balthasar Burkhard creates a monumental portrait of the Bernina massif and its soaring peaks.

Thanks to a close-up focus that prevents the sky from appearing in the composition, the photograph concentrates on a direct connection between the mountain and the clouds. The soft curves of the latter create a striking contrast with the jagged relief of Piz Bernina, known as one of Switzerland’s most impressive mountains, notably because it is the only peak of the eastern Alps to exceed 4000 m.

The photographer opts here for a view that moves away from the realism of the subject by embracing a whole spectrum of nuances that run from white to black through a multitude of greys in between. It is not so much the legendary elevation of the peak that is highlighted in this instance as the sculptural look of the ancient rock that spreads out in the horizontal orientation of the format.

Burkhard has knowingly sought out this proximity with the geological material of the subject. He almost never reframes his negatives but, like a film director, takes enormous care in preparing his shots. The same work is done with the lighting, i.e., everything that is found on the negative is enlarged as is in the final print : “I shoot a single photo and that’s it”. Mentally prepared and technically mastered, Bernina 09 offers all the force of a solid composition framed at a site which, like all those he captures on film, is selected for “the very special influence it has on [him]”.
Balthasar Burkhard, Bernina 09, 2003