– Oh, I use a full sensor camera, it’s big, is it not?
– No, I mean larger.
– Like an 8″ x 10″ view camera?
– No, no, larger, much larger…
So could go a conversation but never reach the epic proportions that Vera Lutter uses for a camera. In fact, calling the device that she uses a camera will probably be a stretch for many since she uses containers as her imaging device. I mean containers that are hauled on the back of tractor trailers or rail cars, that are loaded to cargo ships, those large boxes that can swallow an entire household furniture and have room for the family sedan inside. She uses the original concept of image making, a Camera Obscura.
Her photographs are unique as each is captured on photographic paper secured to one wall of the container. On the other side, she uses a pinhole as the image forming device instead of a glass lens. She varies the “focal length” by bringing the paper closer to the pinhole. As you can imagine, the “focal length” is probably expressed in “feet” like “I photographed this with a 22-feet lens!” Say what?! Now, let’s talk about exposure. I am sure you have taken time exposure photographs reaching several minutes. Those will look like quick snapshots compared to her exposures which can be as long as, are you ready for this, 3.5 months! Yes, 105 days, three and a half months. Of course, this is on the “extreme” end, many only last a couple of days. A quickie by comparison.
Clearly, this brings a very different sensibility to photographic art, one that blends time with light and life as it continues before her camera, I mean container. The resulting photographs are negative impressions of the view outside the box and they are large. She uses three lengths of papers side by side, each 56″ wide and about 100″ long. The result is about 14 feet by 8 feet photograph. Now, that’s impressive, that’s large, especially for directly formed photographs with no secondary enlargement from the film.
I enjoyed looking at her photographs and reading about how she approaches her art and wanted to share this with you. Here are a couple of her photographs, and you can read an interview with her at the links below.
(Note the exposure date on the last photo!)