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Balthasar Burkhard

Chlönthal , 2001
silver gelatin print on baryta paper
261.0 x 126.0 cm
Opting for a vertical format, Balthasar Burkhard delimits the frame of his photograph in order to hew closely to the path carved out by a swift mountain stream. His use of a long exposure when shooting the image here results in a soft feathering of the water’s rapid motion. With its cottony white surface, the tumbling rill balances the light piercing the undergrowth in the upper part of the composition. Between two bright areas, a great range of greys captures the volumes sculpted by time.

Burkhard pays homage here to those shadows that only exist thanks to light and eventually shoots several images in the Chlönthal area. The mastery of the black-and-white contrasts, the perfection of the print (which Burkhard did himself) and the rendering of physical matter or structure are typical of his work.

Although he admires Courbet, Burkhard doesn’t define his photography as being inspired by the great artists who have marked the landscape tradition. Whether working with a city, a bird’s wing, an arm, a tree or a landscape, he treats each subject with the same sculptural monumentality and presents above all “a subject that is there and which awakens something in [him], emotions, a feeling”. As the art historian Florian Rodari puts it, “Balthasar Burkhard strives first of all to bring to bear a neutral view that never modifies what it has nonetheless decided to focus on. It lets itself be flooded by the things it has chosen to photograph and wants to know them as they are given to us to see, not for what they might be made to say”.
Balthasar Burkhard, Chlönthal , 2001