Frank Baquet - Photography

4-CD-95/10, Silbergelatine-Baryt, 100 x 140 cm

This year (1996) photography will celebrate its 160th birthday. Daguerrotype was first publicly presented in Paris in the year 1836 and with this presentation the end of painting was heralded. At least the end of painting which relied only on technique and had little or no sub-conscious or theoretical elements. This prophecy did not immediately come true, but at least in disciplines such as portraiture, it soon replaced painting as a prefered medium. The following relationship between photography and painting was to be a very changeable one.

The first photographers were graphic artists, it was felt that the new medium, being that as it used a mechanical device, could not be the tool of true artistic genius and so any use by recognised artists could only be secretly carried out. The turn of the century saw the orientation towards artistic use of photography with Impressionism. This was the beginning of photography crossing over to painting and using the ideas behind classical picture composition.

The most important effect that photography had on painting was, the freeing of painting having to present a realistic image. It is probable that abstract or better said non-realistic painting, could never have come about without, a new medium, such as photography not taking over the social role of depicting society and its scenes. The new medium gave painting the freedom to develop in new directions.

Aspects of a picture such as composition, surface structure, or choice of colour which had been used only as a means to give a lifelike reproduction, could now become more important for the artist and be developed, freed, to become the subject of the picture itself. The picture, art, became autonomous.

Naturally this developement in painting was not without effect on photography, in particular artistic photography, the photography from painters. Christian Schad and after him Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray and others worked as early as 1918 in the darkroom, inorder to create photos that did not present a realistic image, but using light effects on photographic paper, developed pictures concerned solely with their own playfull effects. Ever since the 30´s, not in the darkroom but with conventional camera techniques, Otto Alfred Schulze, better known als Wols produced abstract and surreal photos alongside his painting and drawing.

The borders between photography and painting have become unclear. The artists exploring the interplay of the two have shaped the developement of the art in the 20th century.

The photographic work of Frank Baquet can also be placed in this genre of photography/ painting. In the last few years his photography no longer presents a realistic image. Instead of the usual interest in a motif, the facts of what and where the photo was taken have become unimportant. Never the less Baquet claims he takes pictures of real scenes; real scenes that we daily encounter, that are however unable to actualy see. Baquets photos are not tampered with or in any way falsified, and he states that neither the film or the enlargement are changed in the darkroom. He uses a simple method inorder to alter the image: for his black and white photos he does not use black and white negatives, but colour slides, whereby through the natural process of development of film, a light blue sky on the slide, on the developed paper appears almost black, a dark red line as a brilliant white.

If we accept the fact that black and white photography already is an abstraction from nature, one will see the interesting problem presented within this idea. A colour slide used to present a black and white image pushes this abstraction a stage further. This alone would not however be enough to create an abstract black and white picture. Our eyes adapt (with practice) and learn to recognise the shapes in the negative picture.

In enlarging details, creating picture compositions Baquet stops the process of identification. These details are marks, scratches, asphalt, grafiti and partialy tor posters. As it has already been stated from the press, I´m not giving away any secrets when I too describe that the winner of the Rhein-Sieg art prize finds these details on the walls of clear plastic bus stops.

Here we see the difference between an abstract black and white painting and Baquet´s, his being photos. The plastic sides of the bus stops have two sides which are marked, smeared, painted and taped on or scratched. When the camera is focused on the front side, the other side, only infact a few millimeters away with its scratches etc. appear unclear, and the further away the object in the background is, the more illdefined they then appear on the picture. The leftover layers of scratches , dirt, dust, paint and left over glue, the play of sunlight on these structures, the layered surfaces with their varying definitions create a fine depth to the works, which the painterly process could not achieve.

Baquet`s work constantly reminds one of its relationship with painting, but with its play with focus clearly defines itself as photography.

Artprize of the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis 1995
by Dr. Herbert Pogt, Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal

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