Wolfgang Sievers: Australian modernism

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One of the different tributories or anabranches in Australian modernist photography is the work of Wolfgang Sievers; different because this German-Australian's photographic roots were in the Bauhaus and New Objectivity photography of the 1920s.

German photography in the 1920's and 1930's (ie., New Photography) evolved through two highly articulated but divergent approaches: the school of objectivity (Albert Renger-Patzsch, Werner Mantz; Karl Blossfeldt; and August Sander) and the New Vision school of experimental possibilities (Laszlo Moholy-Nagy) that strongly emphasized the unity of all applied arts.
SieversWDampier.jpg Wolfgang Sievers, Aerial view of solar salt fields near Dampier, Western Australia 1971, National Library of Australia

The Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity) movement was an outgrowth of, and an opposition to, expressionism, and it avoided painterly effects of pictorialism which lead photographers to abandon the unique qualities of the medium. This machine aesthetic bought a sharply focused, documentary quality and a matter-of-fact style to art photography and was focused on form and design. It concentrated on the exact appearance of objects -- their form, material, and surface and rejected any kind of artistic claim for the photographer since the photographer should strive to capture the "essence of the object".

SieversWAlcoaAnglesea.jpg Wolfgang Sievers, Alcoa chimney at brown coal mine, Anglesea, Victoria, 1960, National Library of Australia

The aesthetic of Neue Sachlichkeit ('New Objectivity'), which emerged emphasised sharp focus, strong composition, unusual camera angles and dramatic use of lighting. Its modern, avant-garde aesthetic was deemed to be ideally suited to advertising, architectural and industrial subjects. Photography was about recording external reality rather than conveying personal emotion.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Sauer-Thompson published on May 21, 2009 7:58 PM.

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