Karl-Martin Holzhäuser

My friend Kyle is a huge fan of Pocahontas, I know because he showed me these pictures. At first, I thought they looked like pictures taken by someone after dropping their digital camera, but this is not glitch art. It’s the work of Karl-Martin Holzhäuser, an artist and photography professor in Germany. “The reproduction of the external physical world with the aid of a camera” seems so obvious… it’s just what photographers do: they take pictures of things you can see. False. Karl-Martin clearly doesn’t rely on images of tee-pees, dream catchers, Native American subjugation, et cetera in his work; even my assumption that he used a camera was just wrong.

The “photo-graphs” are just that… trails of light recorded on sensitive paper which is otherwise in total darkness. As cheesy as it sounds to call anything a painting made with light, this might be what they are, because each line and stripe in the above pictures was made by a very controlled brush of light across the paper. (Religious Paintings of Light made with the Colors of the Wind are my favorite kind of Paintings of Light.) So what do we call them: Photographs? Paintings of Light? Pictures? Photo-graphs about photography?

Deciding what to call the images he produces depends on how you see his work. In the artist’s own words: “My pictures don’t show anything apart from themselves.” It sounds straightforward, but gets murky.

April 28, 2010