Review: Silberschicht by Guido Baselgia


Book Reviews, Photobooks

At the beginning of the 21st Century, it seems that the only way to discover landscapes never seen before is to send robots and satellites to other planets or their moons. Those landscapes then amaze us, and I often wonder why that is. Have we really seen everything there is to see about our home planet? Is it the often somewhat unusual aesthetic of un-Earth-ly images, which are taken by often monochromatic, low-resolution cameras and only get their final look via the computer algorithms of scientists? Or is it just us, the viewers, being blasé after having seen everything? Everything?

Guido Baselgia’s Silberschicht shows us that we have not everything, yet, and that we probably never will. Taken in black and white - yes, black and white - Baselgia shows us landscapes that we would recognize as familiar if they were in colour, but that in Baselgia’s form dissolve into abstractions, which we have to adapt to, to figure out what we are actually looking at.

In the book, considerable emphasis is put on the technical details of Baselgia’s work (using a large-format camera and prints on baryta paper). Needless to say, the use of such a camera and technique only guarantee good photography if the photographer matches the technical effort with a vision - something that is clearly the case here. I have the feeling that it is often forgotten that in the end, it is not the choice of camera or technology that creates a great image, but only the photographer and his ability to create something from these choices.

Baselgia’s ability to stay away from visual clichés and to present a new view of salt lakes and deserts for me is the most prominent strength of Silberschicht. In his view, the salt lakes are transformed into abstract patterns and swirls, and again and again the viewer has to re-focus her or his view to find out what is depicted. In his strongest moments, Baselgia’s work transforms a seemingly boring landscape into an abstract pattern - just like in those images from other planets where something utterly unfamiliar is presented.

So it would seem that we don’t need satellites or robots after all to re-discover our own planet - a photographer with a vision is enough.