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Vera Lutter revived and renewed the camera obscura in an unusual and magical way both in terms of the medium use and the final result.
The camera obscura was largely used in Europe during the Renaissance, although numerous versions of the device might have been used earlier in China and the Arab and Antic world. All along her artistic career, Vera Lutter enhanced the potential of the camera obscura by modifying it into a photographic method. Using room-sized structures or shipping containers fitted with a pinhole, she projects and exposes the outside scene directly onto photosensitive paper. The photographic process reverses the tones on the paper – the sky is black, buildings are white – inverting also the image. The artist often inhabits the camera during the long exposures, which can last hours, days or even weeks. Because the resulting images are made without negative, they are unique and cannot be reproduced.
Vera Lutter’s photography focuses on architectural or industrial landmarks and places with iconic resonance, from the abandoned Pepsi Cola Factory in Long Island City to the now defunct Battersea Power Station in London. Urban environments (New York, 1994), industrial areas (“Friedrichshafen” and Frankfurt Airport” series of 1999 and 2001) and interior architecture (“Studios” and “Pepsi Cola” of 2000 – 2003) are depicted in a way emphasizing their formidable stature and the total absence of humans. The atmosphere of loneliness and the ethereal platinum tones that dominate Lutter’s images reflect the passing of time while signifying the transient.
The artist uses the camera obscura in a particular and sensitive way managing to capture even traces of movement. Her images reveal hidden aspects of her chosen subjects pushing them to the edge of the unfamiliar and new. Objects and environments reflect a strange quietness and mystery while suspended between mobility and stillness, closeness and distance.