Michael Schmidt/ waffenruhe, 5

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Michael Schmidt

The circular shape in its hub dominates Michael Schmidt’s photograph. The edges of this circle seem to be blurred.
Diagonal structures constitute the other essential formal aspect of the picture.

Reality is represented here in a very reduced way. One detects a railroad embankment, between the crossties there is the grayish lining of snow. In the background you can make out „the wall”. The dominating formal elements allow the conclusion that a railroad bridge is being shown here. Weather seems dreary; a lighter spot in the sky gives us the idea of the light source.

Michael Schmidt works here with a few optical tricks, the round shape seems to hover over the embankment, and its blurriness suggests movement, but stays detectable as a mere suggestion. In a way, Michael Schmidt explores here the illusionary quality of photography: it’s pretense to be real, spatial and on the move.

Schmidt doesn’t bother with advices given in „how to do” books about photography. His photograph isn’t in focus at all, and in the middle of it a big black hole is gaping. Looking out for a similar pictorial language, (you always can find something similar), nothing comes to my mind but the fictitious album of a fictitious amateur photographer out of the nineteen-thirties. No professional takes pictures like that.

Being a professional means usually: to be able to reproduce a well-known and predictable pictorial language to serve the intentions of your client. But that’s not what Schmidt does. He who once started out to document the world as it is, in an objective manner opposed to all subjectivity, has given up here his strive for objectivity.

Photographs form Berlin, photographs from divided Berlin.
Photographs containing signs of separation.
No, you won’t recognize Berlin here.

These photographs tell us about peace, which was no peace, but merely a ceasefire, they tell us about the atmosphere in this situation. And thus I return to the starting point of my text, to the wheel spinning around its hub without making any progress, to the hole in the middle which could express emptiness, to the railway picture with the airs of being taken in the thirties, and second world war comes to my mind, crowded trains, soldier and the prisoner-transports, the winters of war.
I can’t prove any of this. They are my phantasies regarding this photograph. But that’s the way our perception of the world works, even more so our perception of this narrowed world of photographs.
Nothing left but phantasies.

Michael Schmidt is perhaps the only German photographer I know whose work is linked to the reality of this country and that is refering to recent German history. He works continuously since 1965. Having started out as a cop, he never got any photographic education. Later on he held legendary photo classes. Still working, his newest book is called „Irgendwann”(“anytime”).

About a year ago I have seen Michael Schmidt again. I watched him from somewhat out of a distance. He was wearing a grey suit, his hair was silver grey. Michael Schmidt finally has adopted the tonality of his photographs.

An overview of his works up to 1995 is contained in his book „Fotografien seit 1965″, Michael Schmidt.