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Photograph of a snow-covered ridge of conifers, part of the Ofenpass in Switzerland, by artist Andreas Gursky.
© Andreas Gursky / Courtesy of Sprüth Magers / SABAM, Belgium, 2019

Andreas Gursky
Ofenpass, 1994

Is this photo a ‘still life’ or nature itself?

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Through Gursky’s staging, the photography connects to the theatre as a tangible ‘tableau vivant’.

This artwork demonstrates its desire for abstraction and illustrates that a photo stops time and space, but the absence of the sounds in nature is also striking. We see an almost abstract surface with references to what is photographed that shows extreme refinement.

The photo of a snowy ridge of conifers is part of the Ofenpass, a route that runs through the Swiss national park. This work is fascinating and brings an outside reality inside, into the camera first, then printed on paper. The intimacy of the photo demands silence because it has stopped time. Gursky proves that he can take a photo that only shows the essence. Out of dissatisfaction with the conventions in photography, he has developed an ambiguous attitude towards this medium.

In particular, the ambiguous nature of photography as a window onto reality encourages him to question it constantly. His response is a new reality that he constructs and manipulates. Gursky's direct view of nature confronts us as humans with the magical moment when human vulnerability is displayed against the immensity of nature.

Gursky’s relativizing aesthetics lead us to consider the relevant question in this era of digital photography, i.e.: what is the reality of a photograph?