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