Fotograf Magazine

Inside And Outside of Photographs

Fw: Books, an Amsterdam independent publisher, has focused on photography and “related topics” for 15 years. Last year, they published a volume with a poetic name, The Photograph That Took the Place of a Mountain by Taco Hidde Bakker, a Dutch theorist of photography. The book contains twenty texts, most of which were already published between 2006 and 2017; three were written specifically for the book and five texts were translated into English for the first time. All the previously published texts were revised, supplemented or updated by the author.

Most texts are relatively short and deal with the medium of photography. Bakker does not focus on a specific genre. The book contains reviews of exhibitions (including an experimental review describing how Bakker “visited” the live stream of an exhibition via Skype and through photographs), medallions of photographers, interviews, and essay paeans or critical reviews of artists, artworks and the medium itself. Bakker’s soft spot for poetry is also evident – in some texts, he mentions poets who have an intimate relationship with photography and their work, or he even directly compares poetry and photography (taking into account all the risks). Bakker cannot deny his erudition – his writing has been based on the theory of photography that is more than one hundred years old. The author characterizes himself as a writer, researcher, and partner of photographers and artists. This collaborative work can be seen in all the perspectives of all his texts. When Bakker writes about a particular photographer, he is often present when the photographs are taken (the essay on Stephan Keppel) or he shares his experience with the artworks in haptic descriptions.

The book is divided into six parts, and the theoretically strongest chapter is entitled Past Imperfect: Photography after Anthropology. The author argues against the role of ethnographic archives today and raises questions about the photographed subjects depicted as colonized subjects. His ethical appeal resounds also in the arguments regarding intercultural and interracial representation. In his text on a series of photographs by Jimmy Nelson, Bakker strongly protests against the uncritical perspective of photographing tribal peoples without any context just to please the European or American eye. His essay on Dirk Braeckman in the chapter entitled Seeing That Can not Be Seen is also impressive, examining the (im) possibility of expression and description of the seen through words. The essay that gave the name to the book deals with photographs of slagheaps and cinders by Witho Worms, printed using the photographed coal. Bakker also elaborates on the traditional role of the landscape and the dualism between culture/nature and the icon/index. According to Bakker, the role of photography is important for understanding the world that we may never see in reality – just in prints and reproductions that enable us to touch “tiny miniatures of the elusive”.

 

Bakker, Taco Hidde. The Photograph That Took the Place of a Mountain. Essays and other writings on photography and art. Amsterdam: Fw Books, 2018. ISBN 978-94-90119-62-1.

Tereza Špinková

#33 investigation

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