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Hans-Peter Feldmann

100 years, 1997-2000

Photograph | B/w
31 x 24 cm (x101)
Hans Peter Feldmann’s work has evolved using various diverse media, but he is particularly well-known for his work with photographs and the books without text that he has made with them.

Since his youth, he has always been fascinated by the effect that photographic images produce within us. He often says that “a photo is just a piece of paper, an object, which, when we look at it, arouses our emotions: sympathy, pity, hostility, memories, moods, etc. But it is not the photo that does this; it is our brain. And this is true of any type of photograph, whether good or bad, public or private”. Due to this fascination, Feldmann has assembled a huge archive of images of every type over the years. Perhaps it is for this reason that the array of photographs that he uses in his series is very wide-ranging, although his work is presented (in contrast to media images seeking glamour) devoid of attraction: cheap reproductions, black-and-white photos and photocopies of everyday images. That is why his work shows us a world like ours, a fragile and grey world whose final meaning is uncertain.

He is not interested in individual images, but rather in series of images, or to be more precise what appears when a number of images are grouped together. His well-known “Time Series” from the 1970s consisted of consecutive images taken over a brief period of time. Using 36 successive photographs, negatives from a single roll of film, he revealed some everyday or trivial moments of life: The passage of a ship, a friend reading, etc. It was his way of detaining the flow of time in order to examine it. The series “100 Years” continued his reflection on the passage of time, linking it now to the cycle of life.

In 2000, when he had already become known as the standard bearer of amateur photography, family album photos, snapshots and even bad photographs, Feldmann produced an extensive series of carefully produced photographs in black and white entitled “100 Years”.

The series consisted of 101 portraits of people between the ages of eight months and a hundred years. The person photographed poses in the centre of the photo, appearing calm and in his/her customary setting, looking out at the spectator through the lens. Underneath each photograph we see printed the person’s first name and age. When on display, the series is presented as a long line of 101 portraits that we traverse as if we were spanning 100 years; an entire lifetime. When we reach our own current age we generally look more carefully, wondering about the person in the photograph and comparing ourselves with him/her. When making the series, Feldmann drew on his own emotional background. All the people photographed were members of his family, friends or within his circle of acquaintances. This is typical of his work. For the artist, linearly ordering the ages of his relationships is a way of meditating on the passage of time, which causes us such anxiety. For the spectator, to traverse the series is to reflect upon our own temporal condition.

The series is also presented as a book. While the majority of Feldman’s photo books have a rather austere design, with this one he has played more with the design of the cover. The numerous small photos that fill the cover and the type of lettering used distance this work from the more serious design that, given the content, we might have expected. This is also characteristic of his work: trying to say something profound and important and transgressing his essence through humour; a way to not take oneself so seriously.

 Helena Tatay


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