Heidi Specker and the Leipzig photography school

In the recent exhibitions of the Brancolini Grimaldi gallery in London the teachers of the famous university of graphics and book art in Leipzig where shown. At the present, Joachim Brohm has a single show, while Heidi Specker has been on view before.

It’s worth to throw a glance on their work, as the school is one of the most appraised universities in Europe for (documentary) photography. Both Martin Parr and Mark Power agree with that, as the author’s consultation has brought to light.

Heidi Specker has published several books: “Im Garten”, “Bangkok”, about Mies van der Rohe’s “Haus Lemke” near Berlin, as well as about a villa by Peter Behrens. Her photographs are always about structures and their elements in a picture of suspense. She compares nature and architecture and lets them make a transition to each other.

Specker got known for her photographs of surface structures on 60s and 70s architecture, which she transfered into abstract compositions and reworked on the computer. This was 1996, as she won the European Photography Prize, at a time, when digital photography was not very common and editing them on the computer very difficult.

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Ill.: “Speckergruppen” 

In these pictures the ambiente of techno clubs in the shape of Eastern Germany architectural remnants came to light. It was an electronic image because the world was getting more and more electronic, she said in the interview inside the book.

In a book about Mies van der Rohe’s house Lemke, she follows her first project. Twelve years after it, the new technology (digital photography) is much more developed, which suites to a “nuanced building” like one of Mies van der Rohe. The opacness of light turns into the open inner sphere of the house, surrounded by the materiality of the bricks. Their earthy tones are contrasted by the non-colour of the windows. Ronald Berg writes in an essay, that like Mies van der Rohe, Heidi Specker was very meticulous. She worked for days, just to get the right proportions of forms and patterns.

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Ill.: Haus Lemke by Mies van der Rohe, photographed by Heidi Specker

In the exhibition there’s also a series of architecture views shown. These are pictures with a floor clock and it is photographed from different positions. It just shows always the same time, namely twelve o’clock on the dot.

In another series, she photographs stone walls like still lifes, and translates them into a raster. She varies them each time and uses light and shadow for the photographic effect. Since the photographs are purely black and white prints, the question remains, in what extent one can speak of an effect.

Her pictures are always tectonically and geometrically very strong composed. Specker always workes with photographic techniques of exposure, lightning, blurring, sharpness, and framing. It would be good to see more of her outside Germany.

For informations about exhibitions at Brancolini Grimaldi see http://www.brancolinigrimaldi.com/

All images from www.heidispecker.de