PRINT October 1987


THIS PAGE could be stamped with the word “before”; the facing page could get the partner word that comes along with “before” in so many contemporary layouts intended to illustrate change, the word “after.” The picture on this page was taken “before”: before honeymooning on the first Queen Elizabeth became fashionable; before travel magazines made aquamarine the only imaginable color acceptable for an ocean; before drug companies made over-the-top profits with travel pills; before those thick, impossible-to-understand frequent-flyer envelopes; before the excuse of jet lag—before practically nowhere on earth was left that hadn’t been photographed and picturesqued into a souvenir, before the idea of struggle in travel became more expensive than the streamlined way to go.

THE PICTURES on the opposite page were taken “after”: after the era of exploration had come to seem a romance of the past, and after the romance of the future had entered orbit around the program of abandoning the surface of the earth and taking off, up into space. The idea of space, a “new,” “fresh” direction, suggests another “after”-quality of these pictures—they were made after the unforgettable events on earth that forever blackened the patina of images of boats and trains, events that for some are facts about the world as constantly present as its roundness. Even before World War I, Alfred Stieglitz’s photograph The Steerage, 1907, showed the grim faces crammed and jammed on the lower decks, not the horizon of adventure you can see in 19th-century travel pictures. About thirty years later images of trains turned nightmare with the Nazis’ black hole at the end of the India. At first, this kind of invocation collective memory, might not seem to gel pictures of icebergs stacked up over there to mention, then, two others among his entitled “From Emptiness—Sinai, called ”Graves and Memorials, 1914—and memory.“ As the interests reflected pictures on the ”after" page is actually of work that profoundly touches questions perspective.

IT COULD be said that at its most basic art either carries us away or takes us back—either transports us from where we think we are to new visions of the world, to new possibilities, or brings us home, gets us face to face with ourselves. In conversation about his work, Klipper often talks of going away and coming home, and he quotes a wide range of philosophers and writers whose ideas have meant something to him on these topics. Photography has been freest in both the outward and the inward directions when it has depicted the subjects that we know least, when it makes its propositions about places and people outside our immediate experience. Then, although we may still project or compare as we look, we tend to approach the pictures as facts rather than as the constructions they are. The photographs here want us to think of them as constructions. At the poles, Klipper is working at the edges of the culture (the classic avant-garde place), but he is careful to show how much the world he takes us away to is his construction. The large-format Linhof camera Klipper uses here has a name that sounds as if either a computer or a Hollywood grip made it up—it’s a doozy, “Technorama”—but the camera reveals something important about all pictures, mental as well as physical, created by all human beings. Because of its wide field, what you get within the frame in addition to what the picture shows is a sense of a nebula of other pictorial options—other positions in which the photographer could have stood, a whole world of other views, other possibilities, other orders. Klipper’s nondogmatic statement doesn’t stop there. The Technorama pictures aren’t the only ones he makes of these places; he simultaneously works with at least one other camera, usually in black and white film, which he prints in heavy tones after he gets back from his journeying. “These different reconstructions of the same thing,” Klipper says, “are to indicate how we are all engineers and manufacturers of our lives, how we all distort, accentuate, and block information.”

WE LIVE in an atmosphere that feels frozen up around the big question—the future. This is a new condition for the century that pushed, pushed, pushed, progressed, progressed, progressed. Our first response to the feeling was typical of what we do when we’re lost, or when we lose something:we retrace our steps. This is essentially what we have done over the last decade, in art, in design, in fashion, in thought, and generally in living our neo-, post-, and mannerist versions of what has already been. Meanwhile, the image of ourselves as frozen has lain like frosted glass over the whole picture, and from all our running in place we’ve developed a thirst to look at the frost instead of through it. (Sometimes it seems that what our eyes dream of seeing is as biologically tied to our well-being as our craving for particular foods; how interesting it is that at this moment trips to the poles should be rising in popularity.)

IN A spookily beautiful way, many of Klipper’s photographs cause a déjà vu feeling. They swim in the sea of pictures that we’ve seen. When I first saw the one on the previous spread it seemed more like a frozen Monet than a place in the world; and as for the penguin image below, it reminded me simultaneously of things I’d seen in Walt Disney movies, of a sleeping Gulliverian Moby Dick, and of some stuffy guests at a black-tie dinner where the dessert is a giant floating island. Everyone will have different associations. The main point is that Klipper is not trying to get away from the familiar; he knows you can’t. (You bring yourself with you wherever you go.) What he does instead is make pictures in which worlds overlap, in which there feels like here, and here like there. Looking at these pictures of the northern and southern poles, we dream a different narrative of life on the earth between, one in which our familiar frozen world could suddenly open up to be potentially as sweet and unfixed as any of these icebergs. They are like postcards to ourselves that say, “Wish we were here.”

Ingrid Sischy