Manuela Lintl M.A. Art specialist and art publicist
born 1967 in Salzgitter, in Berlin since 1989
1990-96 MA degree in Art Theory at the Technical University of Berlin
Member of the German Association of Art Historians
The title Personal Views is self-explanatory even to those with a basic knowledge of English and therefore runs the risk of being too hastily categorised as easily comprehensible and obvious. Personal refers to the personal and Views are outlooks or opinions. But what does Personal Views really mean? Personal opinion, personal points of views or rather a private way of seeing, a private realm? Does it refer to the individual perspective of the outside world or rather the hidden, highly personal, intimate view of each person towards the interior? It is a title that is simultaneously explains and remains unexplained. But precisely this openness to interpretation corresponds to the content of the internet project on private photography from anonymous archives, initiated by Susanne Wehr and combined with essays from Birgit Szepanski and Rainer Totzke.
The volks-bild project by Susanne Wehr, which was to a certain extent the forerunner and source of image material for Personal Views, is one that I have known and followed for several years now, and have written in the context of several exhibitions and publications. What fascinates me again and again, equally in the current project, is the crossing of boundaries from scientific analysis to personal involvement using anonymous private photographs and slides. In the foreground is an attempt to objectify personal images and mementoes belonging to people with whom Personal Views is not associated whatsoever. Nevertheless, strangely familiar private photographs, staged with an obsessive attention to detail, or hastily taken snapshots, trigger off memories and coincide with one’s own experience or even sometimes a familiar atmosphere or feeling: this is an apparent automatism that is generated by amateur photographs. Especially or precisely because the image motifs that Susanne Wehr has ordered according to thematic groups are incredibly similar to our old family albums, we feel astonishment and uneasiness when we approach these witnesses of daily life’s collective history, visualised in standardised formats. [See also the text contribution by Linda Gross.] In a study published in 1965 on social traditions in (amateur) photography, the French anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu drew attention to the fact that the apparently objective images of photographed reality are actually much more subordinate to the imperatives of social life than their direct technical nature leads us to believe. [See also Christoph Behnke: Fotografie als Illegitime Kunst, Pierre Bourdieu und die Fotografie, 10/2007, in: web journal transversal]
This applies in particular to the documentation of familiar rituals, ceremonies, events, celebrations, holidays etc. that intend to underscore group presentation and solidarity: extraordinary events were and still are photographed above all in order to integrate them into the family world. This is perhaps why the memory-triggering function can be activated in the observer even if s/he has no personal relationship to the motif in the photograph.
On the other hand, we can experience alienation if we look at our own family photographs from personal albums after a long interval of time has passed. Our self-image is no longer in harmony with the photographic image in the family’s possession. Just as strange photographs can appear familiar to us, familiar photographs can appear strange.