Photography is centered on light and time. Typically, they are not independent - the amount of light available tends to determine the amount of time needed for a photograph. Exposure usually needs to be done properly, because not doing so results in all kinds of unwanted effects, such as under- or overexposed images - or worse. Worse, of course, needn’t necessarily be worse. If you take black and white film and overexpose it, an object like the Sun will eventually show up not very white but the opposite: black. A well-known example of this is Minor White’s The Black Sun. (more)
Recently, a couple of artists have been experimenting with extreme overexposures, over an extended period of time. Chris McCaw has been producing unique gelatin silver paper negatives, often with the path of the Sun on the sky literally burned away from the paper (Sunburn). Hans-Christian Schink’s 1h is closer to White’s approach (in fact, it was partly inspired by White’s image), producing a negative first and a print later. In Schink’s case, there are no holes in the paper, instead the Sun’s path is pitch black. Being German, he also went for precision, an image might be called something like “7/11/2007, 5:27 pm - 6:27 pm, N 69°45.199’ E 020°29.497’”.
The resulting body of work is now available in book form, as Hans-Christian Schink: 1h. The artist started working on the process in 1999, but it took several years - and various refinements - to arrive at the final set-up, so the images in the book cover the years 2005-10 and both hemispheres, each including photographs taken even beyond the Arctic Circles (how one would stay warm there, waiting for an hour next to a camera, escapes me).
Of course, if you’ve followed this website for a while you know that I’m not so particularly interested in how a photographer takes her or his pictures. Technique itself I don’t find so interesting, as impressive as it might be (and in this case obviously is). For me, only the photographs matter. To be honest, I didn’t expect to find 1h nearly as interesting as I did. But in fact, it’s the one book I’ve been coming back to almost every day ever since I got it in the mail. Yet again, publisher Hatje Cantz managed to produce a book that does a photographer’s work perfect justice, with very elegant minimalist design choices. Ultimately, despite what one could consider a semi-archaic production process in this digital day and age (a large-format camera with b/w film) the work feels and looks like a very contemporary take on landscape photography. Impressive!
Schink’s photographs come along with a bunch of essays, plus a very interesting interview, conducted by Dorothea Ritter. You even get a free astronomy lesson, on a page explaining the position of the Sun on the sky, in relation to our planet’s orbit and axis’ inclination.
1h, photography by Hans-Christian Schink, essay and interview by Dorothea Ritter, essays by Michael Pidwirny and Martin Hochleitner, 96 pages, Hatje Cantz, 2011
All images (c) and kindly provided by Hans-Christian Schink - thank you!