People Pictures Picture People
1986 - 1993
Untitled, Wackersdorf 1986
Crowds attract Cologne photographer Wolfgang Zurborn. His
large colour pictures (80x100 cm) have been presented at Essen's
Folkwang Museum (1987) and in individual shows (1991) at Munich's
Stadtmuseum and Nuermberg's Centrum Industriekultur. The 37
year-old Zurborn thereby gained a good reputation on the contemporary
German photographic scene.
Wolfgang Zurborn has developed an original style, which combines
documentary aspects with a strikingly subjective way of seeing.
His colour photos are charged with contemporaneity to the
brim. They erupt with colourfulness, and abound with gestures
of exalted vitality and action with human beings seen
within the context of crowds. Carnivals, street festivities,
the artificial worlds of leisure parks, open-air festivals,
or sportsgrounds offer the occasions where this photographer
moves among people with his camera.
Zurborn's pictures are stylistically recognisable through
their unusual deployment of a wide-angle lens in close-ups.
The fact that he mostly uses a flash even in daylight endows
his photographs with a hyper-real artificiality. The flash
dissolves the depth of field perspective in favour of an ultra-contoured
flatness. That pulls the pictures fore- and background together
in an unreal way. Reality suddenly seems like a collage of
chance objects that do not fit together.
Untitled, Paris 1989
Even though the people in these pictures are never alone
and are almost always photographed from very close, no-one
ever seems to have discovered the photographer. They are so
preoccupied with struggling for self-assertion in a jungle
of gestures and actions that no time is left for attentive
registration of what is happening to them. One even has the
feeling of still being able to hear the hysterical aural backgrounds
that must have accompanied many of the scenes captured on
film. Perhaps these scenes from a theatre of the absurd exert
a surrealistic impact just because all sounds are absent from
this hyper-activity frozen in photos.
Their synthetic colourfulness constitutes a powerful element
within the impact exerted by these pictures. A kind of collective,
colourful, holiday outfit forces even the most shapeless bodies
into clothes in which athletes could mount the victor's podium.
In the settings of this endless theatre the lacquer never
flakes off. A multi-coloured merriment imposes uniformity,
and at the same time presents people as submerged in a sea
of strangeness. One can only wonder at the degree of distance
these photos incorporate within the narrow confines of their
Untitled, Cologne 1986
Wolfgang Zurborn's photographs tend towards collage despite
their documentary aspects. Their chaos of forms and wealth
of colour tend to become independent. It is not therefore
surprising that in his more recent work the photographer has
linked several shots to form stripe-like visual conjunctions.
These operate with a tendency towards the chaotic, working
towards that trough the compositional aspects of form and
colour. The documentary element is a remnant, only recognizable
if one look more closely. In this new work the transition
from subjective documentary photography to free artistry is
Jan Thorn Prikker, KULTUR-CHRONIK, 5/1993
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