Thomas Demand: Cincinnati Art Museum Lightborne Lecture Series

This post is a response to Jason Lykin’s Blog Post about a lecture on Photographer Thomas Demand. Cincinnati Art Museum has lectures by photographers a couple times a year.  They appropriately call the series – Lightborne Photography Lecture Series.  The press release for the event can be found HERE.

Thomas Demand is a german photographer and first off, the whole presentation was hard to understand due to his accent.  He also didn’t speak very loudly and within the first few minutes of the presentation, he had to move the wireless mic a little higher up on his shirt.  Five minutes into a free presentation and I’m listening to a photographer who has an accent, speaks fast, and he is learning to speak through the mic.  Ok, so I have to open up my ears.

First off, Demand does conceptual work.  What is real? What is an illusion? What is fake or not real?

He starts by showing a film.  The film itself is static since the frames don’t move, but there is movement in it, which is what makes it a film.  We see what we think is rain, but we hear he tells us what is really boiling eggs. As a display format, he played the film in a theatre, which I would assume would give the audience a different experience. He said the sound is also like an applause (audience then laughs).

He goes into a new section and talks about memory.  He said, “When reconstructing an image from your memory, for example, you may not remember the doors or stairs, so those things will not be in the image.”  I think this is significant since pictures have to be known as truth and reality.

Next is  an image of what looked like the top of some trees with what some people would call a “god light.”  This image may be referred as a “dreamscape.”  Meaning, it’s like a landscape, but because of the light, it has dream-like qualities to it.  Thus, a “dreamscape.”  However, he made this image in the studio!  Is this right?  What would you think or feel if you saw such a peaceful image and then were told that it’s fake?  To me, it feels like I’m being lied to.

He then talked about a series of images that he put together that are recreated illustrating the environment and people who were recounting the votes from the 2000 Presidential Election.

The next series of images he talked about were of an embassy.  Many images seems illustrative and straight-forward as if the picture is supposed to show you what something looks like.  To be honest, both of these last two series didn’t peak my interest.

Now the last series perked me up the most.  Yeah, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “save the best for last” right? Anyway, Demand was commissioned by The New York Times Magazine to take pictures in his style for a story titled After the Imperial Presidency. He made sure not to make it about President Bush, but about his presidency.

What’s important about his style and especially this particular series and that it takes place in a magazine is that none of these images are in the oval office itself.  He recreated the oval office out of cardboard replicas. However, there is one image that he took of President G.W. Bush to the left of the frame looking out the window.  He was making it similar to the famous picture of Kennedy in the oval office looking out the window. Demand’s version seems that it is framed more straight-forward with the flags on both sides of the desk whereas the Kennedy picture is at an angle to the left.  Demand pointed out the difference in body language between Kennedy and Bush.

Sometrajectories story about Demand’s pictures in The New York Times Magazine

Times Online: Story on Demand’s Pictures in The New York Times Magazine

I still would encourage anyone to seek out other forms of photography in the community!

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