Saturday, July 30, 2011

Michael Ackerman. Half Life.

Recenlty I took part in a workshop led by Michael Ackerman in Athens. This was a very rewarding experience meeting a photographer with so interesting work and strong point of view. As a person I think is genuine,  pretty much a true artist, isolated  to himshelf who prefer communicating with his photo's than with words.  As he told us, this was one of  the very first reasons  to attract  him in photography since was a student.

He is an American. Born in 1967 in Tel Aviv. Lives in Berlin.Since his first exhibition, in 1999, Michael Ackerman has made his mark by bringing a new, radical and unique approach. His work on Varanasi, entitled "End Time City," breaks away from all sorts of exoticism or any anecdotal attempt at description, to question time and death with a freedom granted by a distance from the panoramic – whose usage he renewed – to squares or rectangles.

Michael Ackerman is an artist of our time, a tragic time, a time which prohibited movement to trace the boundaries between present and future, between the snapshot and the memory.

A photographer with strong obsessions. I will tell you a story about one of his photos. There was a guy called Christian,  Michael  felt that would be very interesting to take some shots of him. He was taking photo's of him 3-4 times in a period of 6-8 months. He was kept asking him every time to had his head shaved. Once, Christian  told him that he really didn't want to do it again because his girlfriend wanted him with hair :-)
So I asked Michael, why after all this trouble to have him shaved his head so many times,  you choose finally in your book a photo of him with his head cut in the frame? The answer was that I just felt that this photo was the right one! Here is the photo ...

Portraits from men faces who met mostly in bars, very strong, self-destructive, naked and  vulnerable at the same time. Most of then taken with polaroids. This way he could show them what is doing and make them feel more comfortable.

Michael Ackerman looks for - and finds - in the world that he crosses the correspondences to his personal illness, to his permanent doubts, to his own fears. He admits it, discreetly, by regularly taking self-portraits, which are not narcissistic, but which say that he knows how to belong to this universe which goes badly.

Every picture is a surprise for him. None of them was preimagined. In every  picture there is always an accident involved. There is always something there that wasn't seen during the shot.

 A dark world with desperate characters as ghostly as the buildings enclosing the deserted streets, trains stranded in the snow in Poland. Michael Ackerman continues to build a work at once expressionistic and restraint in which he does not deny the autobiographical elements, but refrain from any narcissism.

His photographs, fleeing the constraints of traditional reporting, blur geographical boundaries and define a space, without any narration, is a pure mental creation. Served by light surreal, deep blacks and a broken grain, photographs express mixed feelings of tenderness, love, of loneliness and anxiety and reveal something
of psychic functioning of the artist, its affects and obsessions. These black images are disturbing, surreal like a  Murnau film, do feel the tragedy of humanity.

The equipment he use is a Holga, a Diana and a Leica M. but after talking with him would not be a surprise for me  if the next work we will see from him will be in color and maybe digital.

All photographs ©Michael Ackerman