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Thread: The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

  1. #1

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    The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

    I'm fascinated with Andreas Gursky's work, so much so that I've collected nearly every one of his monographs and watched two documentaries on him several times. He's one of the reasons why I picked up LF photography, if not photography itself.

    But, for the life of me, I can't figure out what he's shooting with nowadays. Now I know many people will say "who cares what he shoots with?" But I actually really do care. I really would love to know what his technique is nowadays and how it evolved from what it was, say, a decade prior.

    As far as I can tell, Gursky uses a Linhof Master Technika, as seen in an article about him doing his 2007 North Korea shots, and a Linhof Technikardan 45s, as seen in the documentary about him entitled "Long Shot Close Up" that was released in 2010, as his main cameras. In the documentary, you can actually see him going through the process of using a cheap (well, now cheap) digital camera to photograph a particular area in general (in this case a gigantic labyrinth where miners store their clothes), come back later with his Linhof Technikardan 45s with a digital Phase One back for a "test shoot" of what he actually wants to photograph, then finally come back again with the Linhof Technikardan 45s and the real deal 4x5 Fuji 100 ASA film for the final actual work and photograph a particular area and several more areas so that he has enough photographic material to edit his actual artwork. He then drumscans the processed negatives and uses a photo editor to edit and complete his photograph.

    But this was now 10 years ago and things have changed.

    I know Gursky did love and certainly preferred film, but with the advances in digital imaging, I don't know if that's still the case.

    Does anyone here have any insight to what camera and/or techniques he may now be using? He certainly has access to the best of the best, but I still think he shoots in film. Digital still just doesn't look good. (Look at Edward Burtynsky's latest work, "Anthropocene," and Gregory Credson's work "Cathedral of the Pines." Both were shot with the latest best digital equipment and both look horrible, especially in comparison to their earlier work.)

    Believe it or not, I was crazy enough to email his studio only to be told by his assistant that he's on sabbatical leave from the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie (where he's a professor) and won't be able to answer any questions I had. :/

    So what do you guys know?

  2. #2

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    Re: The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

    Anyone? No takers?

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    Re: The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

    If you've watched that video and read the article on N Korea my guess is that you know more about his technique than anyone on this forum. His show at Gagosian in LA (nearly 10 years ago) consisted of satellite pictures of the oceans. I know Struth still shoots 8x10 for certain things and I would guess Gursky does also. They probably both do both.

    But if you think digital still just doesn't look good, I'd suggest having another look. Check out Christopher Williams' close up pictures of hands handling cameras like the one on the cover of Aperture in 2013. Or Stan Douglas's project 'Midcentury Studio'. Medium format digital can look really really good.

    Burtynsky and Crewdson are more heralded then any of us forum readers ever will be, but are considered second tier by the Art world.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC2AyMVPLh4 Check out this video from 3:20 – 3:55 for great advice on the importance of which camera you use....

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    Re: The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

    Harry Casimor deRham once wrote me (in longhand) back on January 29, 1981: "try to develop an attitude of tolerance and cheerfulness, and to remember the ironic fact that the perfection which can be drawn from the within the depths of the human being can never be found in a machine."

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    Re: The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

    Quote Originally Posted by Chester McCheeserton View Post
    If you've watched that video and read the article on N Korea my guess is that you know more about his technique than anyone on this forum. His show at Gagosian in LA (nearly 10 years ago) consisted of satellite pictures of the oceans. I know Struth still shoots 8x10 for certain things and I would guess Gursky does also. They probably both do both.

    But if you think digital still just doesn't look good, I'd suggest having another look. Check out Christopher Williams' close up pictures of hands handling cameras like the one on the cover of Aperture in 2013. Or Stan Douglas's project 'Midcentury Studio'. Medium format digital can look really really good.

    Burtynsky and Crewdson are more heralded then any of us forum readers ever will be, but are considered second tier by the Art world.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC2AyMVPLh4 Check out this video from 3:20 – 3:55 for great advice on the importance of which camera you use....
    I really enjoyed that YouTube clip of Moriyami and Araki. Despite what one, understandably, may have inferred from what I wrote, I do actually feel the same way - the camera doesn't really matter. But I guess it also depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If I'm trying to make a large 7' x 5' photograph that's highly detailed with everything in focus, I obviously wouldn't want to use an iPhone, even though the iPhone has a good camera system. In matters of scale, the type of camera you use comes more into play. If I'm making small prints, then indeed, the camera doesn't so much matter. My question is out of geeky curiosity. I think that Gursky may actually also shoot with an Alpa/Phase One/Rodenstock combo. (I think I saw a photo of him sporting this setup somewhere, but I don't know if that's his dominant camera/setup.) Anyway, this is Gursky's work from 2016 entitled "Ibiza." It looks like it was shot 4x5, but I could be wrong: http://m.andreasgursky.com/en/works/2016/ibiza/zoom:1

    Digital can absolutely look good, but it lacks the grain and dreaminess of film. It lacks something I can't even put into words. Of course you can mimick the look via photoshop, but I suppose many people wouldn't bother because many prefer that hyper-real look of digital. My Sony a7R III takes phenomanal photographs, but it doesn't hold a candle to a well-shot 4x5 image. Crewdson's "Cathedral of the Pines" simply doesn't look as good as "Beneath the Roses," and I don't think that it's due to what was shot, but rather how it was shot. Once Crewdson went digital, his work really suffered, at least in my eyes. Digital has too much of a hyper-real plastic look that doesn't lend itself well to the cinematic look that defines Crewdson's work. This is all, of course, a subjective personal preference. Some, if not most, prefer the look of digital. Nothing wrong with that.

    Is it really true that Crewdson is considered second tier by the art world?

    Anyway, Gursky is definitely open to shooting digital. I'm just curious to know if a digital setup is what he's using as his dominant camera/mode of production.

  6. #6

    Re: The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

    Have you seen those iphone billboards? They look pretty good....But kidding sort of. Yes I'd agree that if you want to make a print that size especially if it's landscape picture with sky, or lots of subtle detail then 8x10 negative is still king...I had never seen the 'ibiza' picture it's nice, seems like a return to his early style...does it matter what camera was used if it's a compelling picture? if i had to guess it looks more like digital that's been cropped to 4x5 aspect ratio and grain added, something about the highlights and grain seems too smooth and sharp for film...but I could very well be wrong.

    I didn't see those particular Crewdson prints in person but I think the differences have gotten much subtler and that few people care how it originated...I've done some tests of the exact same picture with the a7r3 and 5x7 and I think the digital can more than hold a candle...but of course you're right it will always look a little different. A friend compared it to using a tube amp vs a solid state amp. both have unique qualities.

    Yea, I think Crewdson is considered 2nd tier to Jeff Wall, even if they now show at the same gallery. Crewdson has the technical chops but his idea is much indebted to Wall's earlier work, and Crewdson makes kind of a watered down version of what Wall did much earlier and more complexly - Crewdson references Spielberg and American TV angst while Wall is in dialog much more deeply with nuanced and ambitious issues within the history of representation, filmmakers like Fassbinder, and lesser known figures in the history of photo like Wols. The collector's who buy the Crewdsons can't afford the Walls. Crewdson's work looks like illustrations for a really good HBO series, but Wall's best pictures are weirder and have multiple layers of reference.

    also many more reputable institutions and critics/historians have backed or written on Wall then Crewdson...but then Wall still shoots film so maybe I'm shooting myself in the foot here...

  7. #7
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: The Camera and Technique of Andreas Gursky (Then And Now)

    Some of the better known early works were stitched together from 5x7 film then heavily PS altered. I suspect that much of the initial pioneering impact of this kind of methodology will wear thin as it increasingly becomes routine and passe. I happen to like the rather unique compositional strategies of both Gursky and Burtynsky, but scratch my head at the kinds of prices being paid for a fugitive medium. It's even more ironic when very expensive currently trendy "paintings" involve cheap art store tissue papers glued on with $1.99 tubes of acrylic caulking. At least that will leave curators and conservators the option to flush the whole fragile thing if they don't wish to store it. But I suppose spending obscenely large amounts of high brow-money on art is no worse than the billions of dollars a year of low-brow money being spent on meth. A passing high.

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