Critics’ Picks

Jochen Lempert, Wasserläufer (Delhi) (Water Strider) [Delhi]), 2012, black-and-white photograph, 25 x 35”. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013.


Jochen Lempert

Hamburger Kunsthalle
June 22–September 29

In the early 1990s, Jochen Lempert, who had spent fifteen years working as a biologist, began making black-and-white prints of natural beings and phenomena that were related to his studies. He has since developed a rich and complex oeuvre. His latest exhibition surveys his output, illustrating the formation of his technique as well as presenting an intricate look at his methods, such as the creation of visual analogies.

Technically, Lempert’s process in the darkroom is markedly traditional, yet he also experiments, often intervening directly in the image production process. Take the photogram Four Frogs, 2010, for example, for which he placed frogs directly on the photographic paper in order to capture them at the moment of the exposure. (The picture shows them leaping away, as revealed by long, blurry contours.) Luciola, 2005, a luminogram, offers the trace of light of a firefly crawling across the paper.

Often, supposedly heterogeneous items and ensembles are subtly linked in his work. In one room, visitors encounter three images: Frau in Telefonzelle (Woman in a Telephone Booth), 1995; Wasserläufer (Delhi) (Water Strider) [Delhi]), 2012; and Etruskischer Sand (Etruscan Sand), 2009. Upon first glance, there appears to be nothing that connects these pieces; but another look reveals the detail of a woman’s freckled back pressing against a transparent pane of glass in the telephone booth, which echoes the watery plane the insects walk across and the fine-grained surface of the sand. Thus, the surface, be it of the material itself or of the resulting composed image, is articulated beyond its limit, even at the nascent start of its photographic process.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.