Photographs by Sonja Braas. Essays by Susanne Pfleger and Thomas Seelig.
Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, 2004. 72 pp., 25 color photos, 9½x11¾".
Sonja Braas has shown an abiding interest throughout her relatively young career (she was born in 1968), in the role and perceptual stance of the viewer in relation to art works (see her two earlier bodies of work, You Are Here and Zoos). Forces is her newest body of work, consisting of photographs of snow-packed glaciers and falling rocks, swirling mists and rushing water. As you turn the pages, you start to ask, Where were these taken? Deep in the heart of the Swiss Alps or the Chilean Andes or perhaps Greenland's vast expanses? The questions, which remain unaswered in this book, are irrelevant and, ultimately, the key to her work. Half of these photographs are staged. They are studio constructions, fog, snow and all. And they are staged so successfully that when placed alongside the photographs of actual snow and ice, they fool the viewer. But fooling the viewer is not really the point. Think for a moment about paintings. A painting is a construction—it's simply paint on canvas, after all—and while it may be based on a memory of a visit to a particular landscape at some point, it’s also a presentation of an overall response to place—the emotional and psychological impact the place has on the artist. This, essentially, is what Braas is up to. She has used a specific type of landscape—glacier-like mountain passes—to create a group of images that conveys her own deep response to the abstract concept of Nature’s Forces. - Darius Himes
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