‘In an effort to emphasize the inevitable interaction of these two concepts, German photographer Andreas Mühe chose to link the ‘Pathos‘ and ‘Distance‘ in the title of this book with the conjunction ‘as‘ – “Pathos as Distance“. Not in the sense of a comparison, as in ‘as tasty as an apple’, but rather as a transformation of one concept into the other and their mutual dependency. Pathos becomes distance, and this distance becomes a precondition that allows for pathos.’
Andreas Mühe – Pathos as Distance
The photographs by Andreas Mühe are accompanied by excerpts from the novel 1913 ‘The Year before the Storm’ by Florian Illies.
“1913 reminded me a little bit of our here and now. This unburdened and rather easy-going lifestyle right before World War One breaks out – [the start of the war] completely surprising, but very predictable at the same time. It is similar to our way of closing our eyes and us trying to ignore what’s obviously happening around us. It’s all good but it’s not. Like nobody feels the catastrophe coming. I sometimes get the feeling that we do not realize the disconcerting situation these days, neither politically nor socially. Refugees, political struggles, religious issues, parallel societies. Us looking away, us ignoring the signs. It’s all part of our daily lives.”
Obviously he had adopted the Meurer’s conception and was inspired by the artistic structure and architectural elegance of the plants. He was intrigued with every component of the plant – flowers, buds, seed capsules, roots, tendrils, pods, twigs.
“The plant never lapses into mere arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force compels everything to attain the highest artistic form,” he said.
But reviewing the diverse art movements at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th the use of botanical motifs was not something innovative. Actually they were very popular, especially in the Art Nouveau designs.
The uniqueness is in the original way he captured them: magnification, sharp focus, balanced arrangement, neutral background, high contrast and diffused lightening with only slightest grey shadows beneath the objects.
With his homemade camera he could reach a magnification up to 30x times of the genuine size; an amplification common for what is called now macro photography. This along with the sharp focus reveal extraordinary details of a plant natural structure and shape and provides a visual access to its beauty and lucidity. The trend in photography that time was for elaborate backgrounds, but Blossfeldt’s compositions distinguished with centered plants against a plain monochromatic ground. The viewer should not have to be destructed in his investigation of the object. Showing the finest features of a plant in an isolated contest emphasize their inwardness and expose the individuality and the character of each of them.
After the success of his 1st book in 1928, Blossfeldt was persuaded by Nierendorf to collect another 120 of his photos and in 1932 was published his 2nd book – Wundergarten der Natur (Magic Garden of Nature), again making a phenomenal impact as the previous one and winning him a recognition as one of the key photographers of the 20th century.
Returning to that student exhibition we started… Through the eyes of the past years what else we could add to ‘captivating, outstanding, breathtaking’ when describing the Blossfeldt’s works? Surely a lot, but only one stands out – ‘classical’. Though almost a century has been passed, these graphic black and white photos continue to excite and impress the public. They remain unique and at the same time modern as if they were created nowadays. And apart of their artistic value, they haven’t lost their main purpose and still could be used as teaching materials. Something that probably for Blossfeldt would be the greatest reward.