Gerd Hasler’s photographs of landscape both show and question their own showing. Their striking beauty draws the viewer in, while the ambiguity of the images demands a sustained attentiveness. An attentiveness that is rewarded as one realises the true subject matter here – an interplay of landscape, photographic picturing and the viewer’s perception. Hasler states with eloquent clarity his intention to create photographs on “the threshold between landscape and the photographic surface. This means that the viewer is supposed to oscillate between the awareness of the photographic print and the recognition of the subject…the pictures are intended to disturb Alberti’s concept of the ‘window onto the world’ which photography otherwise seems so eager to support”.
Though putting in question the Albertian ‘window’, these pictures are eminently, immanently, photographic, in the selectivity of views with very particular kinds or levels of detail, the use of the photographic plane (often parallel or slightly tilted) and the decisions of exposure time. Simultaneously however, they engage photography’s co-involvement with other media, becoming painterly in the use of colour and the play between abstraction and description, and sculptural in the tensions between surface(s) and perceived depth or distance.
These are hard-won images, requiring the photographer to physically negotiate challenging landscapes while also requiring exacting skills of observation and patient experimentation in making repeated exposures under difficult weather conditions. From several exposures, Hasler selects the few that fulfil his own rigorous demands. The pictures push against many boundaries at once – the judgment and stamina of the photographer, the limits of photography’s ability to picture, and our willingness as spectators to attune ourselves to the complex and delicate register which these at first apparently ‘simple’ images invoke.
by Susan Butler