The Photographicist
Danish painters and graphic artists on a visit to the world of photography


Helge Bertram (1919-1988), Palle From (1935-1993)) Erik Hagens (1940-),Steffan Herrik
(1950-), Flemming Koefoed (1926-), Ann Lislegaard (1964-), Niels Nedergaard (1 944-1978))
John Olsen (1939-), Eli Ponsaing (1922-), Inger Lise Rasmussen (1941-), Jytte Rex (1942-).

The exhibition The Photographicist has its centre of gravity in the seventies, when for many Danish visual artists it was still experimental and pioneering to work with photography. At that time there were only a handful of Danish photographers who articulated visual-arts ambitions; and the relatively few documentarists who allegedly used the camera with an innovative, aesthetic will to create form, shunned the label 'artist' and preferred the journalistically coloured designation 'photographer'.

Those visual artists in the seventies who devoted some of their energy to the exploration of the expressive potential of photography were (chronologically by works) Helge Bertram (whose experiments with photography began as early as the sixties), Erik Hagens (who in 1971 documented his South American journey with a Canon Dial), Palle From (who got himself a camera in the sixties and regularly exhibited photography from 1974), Niels Nedergard and John Olsen.

Characteristic of all these is the fact that the works are often executed and finished with a deliberately primitive technique that gives the expression a physicality and rawness that the observer is not familiar with from the flawless pictures of the professional photographer. The spin-off effect from the daily work with brushes, pencil, ink or dry point typically means that the time-consuming darkroom stages leading to the 'fine print' are set aside in favour of a quick workmanlike treatment that leaves the print with the traces of developer splashes, solarization, dust marks or scratches. The work print and the exhibition print are in principle identical, for the interest in the intervention, the 'fingerprint', is greater than the longing for illusion and accuracy. Often it is the likeness itself that has been turned out of doors - and with methods that make the final result recall what the artists are looking for in their other artistic activities.

In the past the 'Institution of Art' almost automatically cast aspersions on the crystal-clear reproduction of reality by photography. This seems to have been replaced today, among both pictorial artists and professional users, by a fascination with - indeed a longing for - the very same quality. But there is a missing link in our understanding here: without Pop Art and Rauschenberg there would probably not have been the same readiness to accept it. In the
fifties and sixties, American-style, the artistic usefulness of photography made its debut, unceremoniously but artistically launched along with the comic strip, television and the tape recorder. And so, in line with the new media of the day (and kept up to scratch by those that are now bridging the gap - video and the computer), we can now on the verge of the new millennium observe something like a symbiosis - a fusion that sometimes makes the distinction between photography and other visual art seem something of a postulate.

The Museums journal of photography and video, KATALOG vol 11. nr 1 features an in-dept article about The Photographisist by Museum director Finn Thrane.