Critics’ Picks

Marco und Nan, 2000.

Basel

Christian Schwarz

Galerie Karin Sutter
Rebgasse 27
December 9, 2005–January 21, 2006

In today’s flood of overproduced images, sometimes it’s a relief to see “honest” pictures—if the term “honest” can properly apply to photography at all. Zurich-based shutterbug Christian Schwarz’s black-and-white photographs are just such pictures: unpretentious milieu studies in the timeless tradition of Brassaï, Robert Frank, or perhaps more accurately, Nan Goldin’s intimate portraits of friends and social underdogs. Schwarz’s affinity for Goldin is apparent in the double portrait Marco und Nan, 2000, in which a tattooed man poses in profile in front of Goldin’s book I’ll Be Your Mirror, the cover of which shows the artist herself in profile. Schwarz finds his inspiration in the streets, bars, and nightclubs of Zurich’s formerly bohemian “Kreis 1” district, where he also lives and works. His closeness to his subjects is not bred from voyeurism, but rather comes from friendship and an almost-tender intimacy, which allows them to pose for the camera—or not—with dignity and disarming composure. Schwarz’s portraits of friends, prostitutes, kids, old people, dogs, barflies, and family tell unflinching stories of life and love, where humor and melancholy live in close proximity.