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It is hard to describe Tim Hölscher’s brand of creativity. His oeuvre can be approached in different ways; via its technique, how and under what circumstances it came about, or by the impact the picture or rather photo has on the viewer. Hölscher uses a number of fascinating techniques. Peter Thomas devoted a lengthy article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung to the technique used for the series “Albanische Landschaften” (“Albanian Landscapes”), for which Hölscher converted Albanian bunkers to pinhole cameras, creating landscape photographs on positive paper inside the bunker’s dome. 

The viewer of these photographs sees more or less barren landscapes that lack contrast and are fairly unspectacular. But then there are the irregularly cut edges, the cracks and folds, and traces of processing that give the viewer pause all the same.

The photographic paper rather than the picture tells an additional story. It is an object of documentation itself. It, too, was inside the bunker, where it captured and preserved light. And now it preserves for the viewer the image formed near the rear wall of the bunker over a number of hours through an aperture no larger than a few millimetres. Hölscher himself spent the exposure time inside the bunker and witnessed the entire process of taking the photo, even though he did not control it. That, too, tells a story.

This is more than a classical representation of reality by means of photography. Hölscher’s experimental approach to taking photographs in the Albanian Landscapes tells stories of what has been and preserves the light in idiosyncratic one-off images. Last but not least, this approach documents the errors of socialist Albania’s dictator Enver Hoxha, whose totalitarian regime came to grief when exposed to reality.

Bielefeld Kiln

„Bielefeld — Köln“ from the series „Postwege”, 2008

The Postwege (“Postal Routes”) series was created in a similarly experimental way using the pinhole camera technique. Here, the path from the sender to the recipient was recorded on photographic paper as captured light. The photographer has little influence on the composition of the work, apart from the choice of post office and the sender for the postal route, whom he determines by filling in the address label. Not even the exposure parameters can be controlled. Despite or precisely because of that, the resulting unique and impressive images are rich in structure and mysterious hues of colour.

Picking up the approach used for the Albanian Landscapes, Hölscher went on to create the Soester Ansichten, panoramas of church towers that he had converted to pinhole cameras in his hometown, Soest in Westphalia. For this he received a working grant. While the views of the former Hanseatic town may at first appear trivial, here too the spectacular “pinhole” church towers and the unique nature of the photographs add a further dimension. They belie the enormous effort involved for Hölscher in converting the towers high above the town to create the panoramic images, amid the tolling of church bells, the flapping of pigeons and the vagaries of wind and weather. 

Tim Hölscher hunts out techniques that lead the way to unique photographs. You could say he roots through the history of photography for dying species of the photographic kind. Photographs taken on positive paper that cannot be tweaked by labs and image processing software have a special quality. They appear more direct and often a little rougher than classical copies from film or printouts of digital data sets. Their very form bears witness to their immediacy.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAZ)

Salzgitter I

„Salzgitter I“ from the series „Tankstellen”, 2010

The Tankstellen (“Petrol Stations”) series was taken without any unconventional methods. Instead, photographs of petrol stations with unusually high-class architecture were digitally processed and reduced to their bare bones, leaving out anything that distracts our attention. These photographs present the functional architecture of petrol stations more as sculptures. Not until we see these sober, large-format works do we really understand the architect’s vision. Tim Hölscher teaches us to see properly: every day, we pass by such abandoned petrol stations that are used by second-hand car dealers, hot dog stands or doner kebab vendors until the buildings are finally demolished, without anyone realising the architectural value of their modern, lightweight roof structures, for instance. This becomes apparent when the images are processed and pared down to basics. Hölscher spent an entire week working on each petrol station just to eliminate all the “excess baggage”. We should be grateful to him for helping us to see our own environment with new eyes. 

The combination of unusual techniques and the impact of the created images comes full circle in the Erinnerung (or “Remembrance”) series. Here, Hölscher no longer uses a camera to produce the image, but projects an old slide from his childhood days onto a fluorescent layer of emulsion on a large screen. For a few seconds, the projector “paints” the picture with light before it switches off. For a few minutes, the screen projects the image back to the viewer before it starts to fade and finally disappears.

These “experimental pathways to the picture” are now almost completely removed from classical photography. Neither film nor a camera are used. The image is briefly created for the viewer in the darkroom, only to slowly disappear again while the viewer is still meditating on what he or she has seen. More an installation than classical photography, one might rightly say.

Hölscher performs exciting experiments with equipment and materials. Sometimes he uses a camera, sometimes he doesn’t; he converts bunkers, churches or cardboard boxes to cameras and uses film, paper or light-sensitive materials to draft an image for the viewer. With educational intent, one feels.

The photographer has the privilege of being able to paint with light. Hölscher has found unusual ways to tell interesting and moving stories by means of different materials and techniques. He creates images of light in the fullest sense of the word.

Wege Zum Bild

All of the works mentioned here and other projects have been published in the index of his works entitled “Tim Hölscher–Experimentelle Wege zum Bild”:

„Tim Hölscher–Experimentelle Wege zum Bild“ Werke 2007 — 2012/Editors: Holger Zinke, Martin Langer /Paperback: 108 pages / Publisher: ZENTRALVERLAG/­Language: German ISBN-10: 3981241738, ISBN-13: 978-3981241730, Size: 20,8 ×1,2 ×24,3 cm 20.8 × 1.2 × 24.3 cm

Tim Hölscher
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