|Infinity so near
Photography has always amounted to more than just taking a snapshot of reality. The art of photography means staging reality.
Equipped with the technological achievements of our time, Uwe H. Schmidt makes use of the meticulousness of a “model railway enthusiast” and creates his personal landscapes, which are then photographed and thus become public. Schmidt’s landscapes do not come into existence in cyberspace; no computer generates them and puts them on a screen. Rather, they are created as real miniature landscapes which could be put in a small box. The scenes vanished a long time ago, the ice has melted and the miniature figures are stored in their cases again. What remains is the photograph, which bears evidence of fantasy come into life.
The landscape that has been designed in the studio is only about the size of a cake plate, but it creates the illusion of the infinity of space when it appears on smooth, high gloss large-size photographs. These large-size photographic prints of his panoramas are Schmidt’s actual works of art. With their compelling precision they clarify the high expectations that this professional photographer has of his craft.
The large formats put more emphasis on the details of the photographs than can do the small pictures contained in a booklet which is now available. This booklet can be considered as an overview and catalogue of Schmidt’s works of art, but together with Brigitta Weiss’s poetry it has become an anthology of poems in its own right. In this case the photographic works do not illustrate the poetry; it is the poems that refer to the pictures. However, the interpretative poems are not meant to restrict or direct the view of the spectator but to stand for themselves as words alongside the pictures. The link between poetry and photography is an unmistakable affinity, which must have prompted the artists to undertake this joint publication.
Words are not always useful to make the invisible visible.
Somewhere there is always a human being.
For the illusion to work a human being is needed a figure which is isolated but not always lonesome, at times busy and at times melancholy, acting within the confines that have been created for him. Although obviously made of plastic and so tiny as to be able to take part in a model railway scene, the human being sets the proportions and spatial dimensions, gives rise to the impression of the vastness of the plain and of infinite distance. The nearness of infinity, the absolute stillness of the landscape and the peaceful and sometimes gloomily oppressing atmosphere virtually compel the spectator to focus on the human emotion in the foreground. Man stands at the centre of his respective small world and if you can’t find him immediately, the photograph induces you to look for him.
Romanticism is being staged anew at the beginning of the 21st century.
“Mankind and nature” are the central themes of the photographic works. “Der Wanderer” (the hiker) and other works emanate an obvious affinity with Caspar David Friedrich’s landscape paintings and Arnold Böcklin’s variations on the island of the dead leave their traces in the photographic works “die Überfahrt” (the crossing) and “Suche nach den Horen” (looking for the goddesses of justice, order and peace).
Without the surreal or indeed real (!) objects and activities of the depicted people, the photographs with their melancholic, grave radiance could be considered as a photographic implementation of the landscape paintings of the 19th century. Due to the intense colours of the modern photographic medium the fantastic scenes are not perceived as copies of 19th century art but emerge as independent contemporary works of art.
The genre-painting with its humorous depiction of seemingly common-place events is another line of tradition to which those works belong that intend to tell such a little story.
Uwe H. Schmidt is a story-teller who avails himself of photography.
The fascination which the photographic works command is due to the ambiguous simplicity of the things depicted: foreground, background and a small man who is tragicomically going about his business or just looks into the distance. And just like the depicted persons the spectators watch the play of colours in the sky and on the water. The spectators can join them in puzzling about the sense of their actions. They must feel lonely and misunderstood in the vast world in which they are doomed to act and stay.
Uwe H. Schmidt tells us the story of the iceman on the iceberg in the arctic sea, of the gardener in the desert, of the fisherman and the tin of anchovies, of the diver who lacks water and other scurrilous people, who unperturbedly undertake their actually hopeless task.
Neither is Uwe H. Schmidt the first nor is he the only one who photographs miniature figures at a model-reality ratio of 1: 87. However, his fantastic studio-created landscapes which present the magnificence of nature in intense colours, are indeed unique, bearing the style of their creator which will be easily recognized.
It remains to be hoped that Uwe H. Schmidt will keep his fondness for experiments, his obsession with detail and the corresponding perfectionism so that he will continue to provide us with colourful insights into his vast landscapes with the small people.
Georg Brütting (art historian) MA
Translation by Winhard Reiner