Photography in Munich (1)

June 2011. In Munich art museums, people spent a lot of time with the work. They looked. Sometimes, invisible lines were crossed: at the Pinakothek der Moderne, alarms were regularly set off by people leaning in to examine the work. (Nineteenth-century architectural photographs, shown in low light for conservation purposes, inviting you closer and closer…)

As well as ‘Photography for Architects’, the Pinakothek der Moderne had ‘Die Neue Wirklichkeit’, presented in association with the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation collection. Nine photographers, active c.1910s-1930s. A rich show, coherent and various. August Sander’s images were familiar through reproduction – the three farmers, the farming family, Dora Lüttgen – but the prints were wonderful, providing a chance to see the work afresh. Karl Blossfeldt’s large-scale botanical works were unexpectedly compelling, too, finely detailed, many as architectural as the nineteenth-century images downstairs.

Germaine Krull’s self-portrait with cigarette and camera brought to mind Pierson’s portrait of the Countess of Castiglione, Scherzo di Follia (the ‘mask’ and the eye). Florence Henri’s self-portraits were also stand-outs. Her images make use of mirrors and mirrored surfaces (in the form of boules), reflective and framing – odd planes and angles and fragmentation – clear and mysterious. Alfred Ehrhardt’s sand images were also beautiful, as were Albert Renger-Patzsch’s multiplicities (piled pans, lasts) and glass shadows…

Not only was the exhibition a great group show, it was on a scale that allowed you to go back and re-look at work (as you inevitably wanted to do) in a single session – re-viewing, making connections, being surprised again –