He has explored a large variety of subjects over the years which are mainly cityscapes, landscapes, portraits or group portraits, church and museum interiors and flowers. In analysing these different themes, it appears that we can find a common feature linking all these works all together. It is an inquiry into the relationships between men and time. I have chosen to feature some of his street views simply because they’re my favourite aspect of his work – a simple concept carried out with convictin and style.
Thomas Struth’s work is characterised by a refusal to indulge in the spectacular. There is nothing unusual in the way the photographs are made. The artist purposely does not focus on anything in the field of vision of the photograph, everything is sharp, nothing is blurred. This reinforces and contributes to create a strong neutral effect in the picture. Every form of rhetoric is absent. As he said in an early interview when he was still student at the Academy of Düsseldorf “Photographs that impress me have no personal signature”. He is not looking for aestheticism. The framing and the composition in his photographs never lead the gaze to any formal or substantive motif. It is in reaction to the context of general devaluation and loss of meaning of photography that Thomas Struth chose to do picture with a rigor that he acquired from the teaching of Bernd and Hilla Becher. He doesn’t want to increase this negative phenomenon and wants to enable this medium to be still envisaging in artistic terms. His work is a sensitive and ample vision of reality without artificial techniques which would divert viewers from the real meaning that the photograph has to communicate. The apparent simplicity of his approach is based on a balanced combination of analytic power and visual insight.
1978 115th Street/2nd Avenue, NY
Views of banal buildings, prospects of streets without qualities, anonymous facades- these are the characteristics that first strike us when we discover Thomas Struth’s images of streets. Usually in black and white, they present a frontal, eye-height view, with no optical distortion to disrupt the impression that this is a neutral, objective recording of reality. Frequently there is an almost total absence of people in Struth’s cityscapes which provides a feeling of desolation. We are left wondering where the people are, or could they even be dead? There are obvious signs and suggections of recent human activities in the photographs, such as linen drying at the windows, cars parked on the street. It reinforces a kind of frightened perception. The photograph is situated almost out of a realistic time.
1978 Crosby Street, NY
These urban landscapes are also a critical description of different human habitats. In observing more deeply these pictures, we begin to realize the omnipresent relationships to time and to history. Cities are like a book opened at several pages at the same time. They are a superposition of historic and social layers. Urban fabrics witness buildings built at different periods, buildings which have stood through the years. We can see more recent constructions which we can assume have replaced older ones. There is a feeling of incarnate eternity in the architecture but also a feeling that we are living in a transient world where nothing, nobody is going to remain eternally. The use of black and white contributes to make the age difference between the elements on the photograph less visible than in the reality thereby creating a sense of timelessness.
1978 Dey Street/Broadway, NY
1978 Park Avenue/59th St., NY
1978 Washington Street/Desbrosses Street, NY
1978 Water Street/Maiden Lane, NY
1980 Sommerstrasse, Dusseldorf
1991 Bernhardstrasse 2
2003 Jiron Cailloma, Lima, Peru
2003 Jiron O'Higgins, San Vicente de Canete, Peru
2003 Pasaje Gaspar, Lima, Peru
2003 Pasaje Sta Rosa, Lima, Peru
2003 Calle Wakulski, Lima, Peru