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Andreas Mader, Die Tage das Leben, Ex Pose Verlag, 2006 

Andreas Maderís book Die Tage Das Leben begins with Aki Kaurismškiís quote ďLife goes forwards not backwards. Youíd be in trouble if it did.Ē I donít know exactly where Mader took this quote, but looking at the book, you realize why he chose it. Maderís book is about temporality and non-conventional extended families. In his book, Mader portrays his friends during a period of time lasting more or less twenty years.

The first image in the book is dated 1988, and shows Eva, one of Maderís close friends and subject of his photographs, naked at the beach with her eyes closed. The book was published in 2006, with a small publishing house founded in West Berlin in 1986, called Ex Pose Verlag. Mader selects for this publication 33 portraits of his friends. There is a sort of circularity and pattern in the book that is easier to follow with the help of the titles at the end of the book, but the circularity is present only in the repetition of the subjects, because the direction of time is rigorous and linear.

This linear time, can be deconstructed, jumping from one picture to another, analyzing how the connections between the subjects have changed, or how much they look younger or older in one picture or another. Itís here that we discover the potential key for interpreting the reasons for which Mader gives us Kaurismškiís quote. Time goes always forwards, it never moves backwards, but we can look at images, thanks to the photographic tools that we have, with another kind of temporality. We can actually cross limits of time.

The cover of the book is also another hint that Mader gives us. Eva and her daughter Herveva, appear on both the front and the back of the cover, with two pictures that play with the same gesture (the mother that holds her child in her arms) in different periods of time. We discover the specific bonds between people with the help of titles and names: Eva is the first subject that appears in the book, then she is in relation with a man named Hervť, and after that Hervť is portrayed with a child named Herveva who will appear again twice in the arms of Eva. After this sequence, we assume without doubt that these three people are related to each other as a family. We have no other elements to confirm this theory except for the title of the photographs. We believe genuinely in what the photographs are telling us, whether real or fictional, because of the plausible appearance of photographic images. Photographs resemble real people and their connections to each others. They are like real life.

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Peter Puklus, One and a half meter, Kehrer, 2012 

Six years after the publication of Maderís book, Peter Puklus published a book called One and a Half Meter with another German publishing house, Kehrer Verlag. I donít think or know if the two photographers are aware of each other (or each otherís work), but it was clear to me that Puklusís work is related to the same idea of representation of friends and family, and plays with the verisimilitude of everyday pictures.

Puklus is less interested in temporality. He doesnít even give us any date for his pictures. We imagine that the pictures were taken in a limited period of time, over at least a couple of years or so. What connects Mader and Puklusís works is the attitude in portraying people that are part of their daily life, in a balanced way: intimate, private but at the same time open to questions like: why am I interested in portraits of photographerís friends? Are those pictures capturing private moments, or are they not? If we agree with the idea that both books are well constructed and convincing in their structure, why is that the case? Is it still relevant to look at other peopleís friends and relatives when we daily use our cameras to photograph and share our private moments?

I can offer a brief answer to these points, one that might explain why these two works and books are well executed and compelling. These two photographers chose to photograph subjects with whom they have direct and constant access. In the first half of the book Mader approaches his subjects with a similar look to that of Puklus, then changes, approaching them with more distance and control. Puklus is sneaking a peek into his friendís everyday moments, maintaining an unemotional vision and controlling everything. It seems apparently chaotic and yet ordinary. They both are creating a story, through images of their friends, of what we recognize as their friends. Those pictures are the images of their friends, and are not their friends, so here we are approaching a fictional and yet plausible reality, which is not the reality itself.

These books deliver something that makes abstract our idea of closeness, and the reality of the bonds between the people in the images. Are they really related to the photographer, or to each other? Or did the photographer create the idea of connection that we perceive between them? This other level of viewing these books, more complex in terms of what is fictional or what is real in Puklusís work, allows our imagination to go beyond the surface of the photographed subjects. We donít care about who they are exactly, but we cannot help but to be fascinated by the privileged view that we have of their lives, thanks to the photographerís construction. We satisfy our voyeuristic desire to see, and not be seen, but we also struggle with the enigmatic potential of photography to manipulate our perception of reality and fiction.


Text by Anya Jasbar
Edited by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa