In the autumn of 2014 Bernheimer Fine Art Photography will be presenting the exhibition PARIS CITY OF LIGHT. Photographs by Christopher Thomas in their gallery at Brienner Strasse, Munich. Ira Stehmann is the curator of the exhibition and editor of the forthcoming monograph of Christopher Thomas’s Paris photographs. The book will be published by Prestel Verlag and will be launched at the opening of the exhibition.
As an artist, Christopher Thomas has established a reputation above all with his city portraits: silent photos of city scenes, taken with a large-format camera and printed on hand-made laid paper. The film is a black-and-white type 55 film by Polaroid.
The first of his city portraits was the cycle Münchner Elegien (Munich Elegies), which was shown in the Museum of Photography in Munich in 2005 (published by Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, 2005). This was followed by the series New York Sleeps, which he created between 2001 and 2009. The companion publication, New York Sleeps. Photographs by Christopher Thomas, published by Prestel Verlag in 2009 (6th edition 2012), was awarded the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis (German Photobook Prize).
The Polaroid series Venedig. Die Unsichtbare (Venice in Solitude), published by Prestel Verlag in 2012, was created in 2011 and 2012 and was shown worldwide in galleries and at trade fairs.
Thomas´s new series Paris City of Light will be shown at Bernheimer Fine Art Photography in Munich for the first time. On this occasion, Prestel Verlag will be launching the new publication.
With all its beauty, its intoxicating light and its flair, the French capital is an invitation to create a photographic love poem to the city. Inspired by this thought, and following on from his city portraits Venedig. Die Unsichtbare (Venice in Solitude, 2011), New York Sleeps, 2009), and Münchner Elegien (Munich Elegies, 2005), Christopher Thomas set off in 2013 and 2014 to capture Paris, the great cultural capital and the first metropolis of the modern age, in auratic and brilliantly composed pictures. He takes us on a journey through the Paris of the past, which we recognise from the countless photos from the nineteenth century. He shows us the bridges, the parks and the alleys, continuing his stroll along the quays, past the magnificent palaces and the landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Les Invalides and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. He reveals to the visitor a silent city, devoid of people and cars. The pictures are untypical, and appear unreal and dreamlike, especially for those who know Paris with its ubiquitous crowds of tourists at all seasons; last year they numbered 87 million.
Like Eugène Atget before him, Christopher Thomas sets off like a flâneur on foot with his heavy camera equipment. His is a gaze filled with curiosity, enquiring, unprejudiced, delighting in discoveries and questioning. He generally prefers the early morning hours, when the city seems still to be asleep and reveals its structure in silence, or the time just before sunset, when the light cloaks the buildings and bridges in a mystic air that makes their structures glow. His equipment includes a selection of large-format Cambo Wide cameras, a tripod, a dark velvet cloth, and numerous packs of Polaroid film. Before Polaroid ceased production in 2008, Thomas was able to purchase a stock of film material, which he continues to make use of to this day. In his new series of works, much more than in his other city portraits, he permits himself to experiment; this is a result of the irregularities of the Polaroid film due to its age. It is gradually becoming unreliable, which often leads to solarisation and inversion. In additional to the usual positive, the film the photographer uses, type 55, also contains a negative. By virtue of the large negative (4 x 5 inches), Thomas can ensure that the prints (pigment prints on hand-made laid paper by Arches) match up to his demanding requirements as regards the wealth of detail and the finest nuances of tone. The negatives are very sensitive and have to be treated in a sodium sulphite bath after developing. Thomas is also a photographer of the glamorous consumer world who works with the very latest digital cameras. Here, however, he uses a technical process dating from the very beginnings of photography that includes a great deal of “craftsmanship” and “deceleration” in the working process.
Christopher Thomasʼs personal viewpoint, his sensitivity and his craftsmanship result in pictures which we can regard as a metaphor for the modern capital during the nineteenth century, which to this day has lost none of its unique charisma.
Christopher Thomas is one of the few photographers who repeatedly succeeds in arousing a sense of wonder in the viewer with his auratic, brilliantly composed and technically perfectly executed pictures – and who moreover presents us with an aesthetic pleasure and a work of timeless poetry. His photographic love poem provides a visual antidote to the hurly-burly of the metropolis and at the same time draws a veil in front of the sober reality of fast-food restaurants, traffic chaos and modern architectural sins.
Concurrently with the exhibition in Munich, Bernheimer Fine Art Gallery will show works from the artists four city portraits in their Swiss branch in Lucerne. The exhibition City Portraits will run from 26th September to 8th November 2014.