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Thomas Struth

German Photographer

Thomas Struth Photo
Movement: Düsseldorf School

Born: 11th October 1954 - Geldern, Germany

" For me, making a photograph is mostly an intellectual process of understanding people or cities and their historical and phenomenogical connections. At that point the photo is almost made, and all that remains is the mechanical process"

Summary of Thomas Struth

Struth was a fundamental player in elevating the status of photography to new heights of artistic credibility. Known for his observational approach and the sheer scale of his images, which are on a par with historical painting, he uses his camera as a means of presenting his audience with what he has called "the undeniable truth of what is in front of you." As one of the members of the Düsseldorf School of Photography he helped promote the ideals of Bernd and Hilla Becher which finds the art of photography in the German documentary traditions of August Sander and the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement.

Best known for his photographic "series" - street, audience, family portrait and new technologies series - Struth has a strong nomadic streak and has travelled to the corners of the world for his art. More recently, Struth has undertaken expeditions into densely overgrown tropical forests and jungles to produce images he has called (perhaps with a little irony) "new pictures from paradise."

Key Ideas

Struth valued the camera as means of communication which has a "clear language" all of its own. He was a forceful champion of the objective properties of the photograph and has stated that he is "interested in photographs that have no personal signature." However, Struth has remained mindful of the fact that the images the photographer produces must reflect his or her own attitudes towards their subject. In that respect, his huge, minutely detailed, tableaus are always recognizably "Struth photographs".
Struth approaches his photography as an "intellectual process" in which he uses his camera to arrive at a better "understanding of people or cities and their historical and phenomenological connections." His photographs therefore straddle the domains of art and artefact through the way in which he asks us to reflect on the routines of modern living.
Struth acknowledges that he has the instincts of a restless wanderer. Indeed, he believes that the photographic artist "sharpens their own existence" by learning of foreign and distant cultures and of the similarities and differences between alien cultures. In its truly global reach, his oeuvre fully reflects his "global-village" worldview. On a personal level, however, he has stated that the Renaissance -like scale of his compositions, and their stillness and clarity of detail, represents his attempts to silence his inner wanderer. Speaking of his Jungle series, for instance, he has stated that his aim was to produce images that audiences could look at "forever and never see everything" and he was personally gratified to observe how audiences looked "very quietly into the Jungle pictures [and in an even] deeper silence than usual."
More recently, Struth has turned his lens away from human interaction and jungles onto technological, manmade structures. Following in the spirit of the Bechers, Struth became captivated by monumental buildings and structures that served only practical ends and which had hitherto evaded the notice of the art world. However, Struth went further than his famous mentors by taking his camera into the interiors of these buildings, producing images of cluttered technological "junk" that are as knotty and dense as his jungle foliage series. Struth called these images "landscapes of the modern brain" and his aim was to produce, not so much still images, but rather photographs that were "somehow exhausting" to look at.
Thomas Struth Life and Legacy

Thomas Struth was born in 1954 in Geldern, North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, to Gisela Struth, a ceramic potter, and Heinrich Struth, a bank director. Thomas was born nine years after WWII (his father was a soldier in the Wehrmacht and was shot twice) and he claims that growing up in post war Germany had a profound effect on his worldview. This was especially true when working on his family portraits series which, he claimed, always prompted him think about what his own family did under fascism.

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