Michael Wesely, Stilleben 2001-2007

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2007 by Schirmer/Mosel (here). 96 pages, with 42 color images. Includes an essay by Franz-W. Kaiser. (Cover shot at right, via Schirmer/Mosel.)

Comments/Context: Contemporary German photographer Michael Wesely has made a name for himself by expanding the idea of the photographic exposure to the point where time itself seems to be what is being captured. Using a large format camera with exposures measured in days, weeks, months, and in some cases even years, Wesely has drawn out the decisive moment into something altogether more cinematic, albeit still delivered within the confines of a single, static frame. This recent book gathers together a group of floral still lifes Wesley did over the last few years, showing how this approach can breathe new life into a classic subject.

If you’ve ever bought a bunch of tulips at the market, jammed them into a vase and left them on a table for a week or so, you’ll know that the straight stems quickly bend and bow over, and the flowers gradually open up and drop their petals. While other photographers have documented the end point decay of all kinds of flowers (often as withered, dried up, or dusty husks), Wesely is the first I have encountered to have effectively captured all of the intermediate steps; the photographs document the entire process of aging, not just the final result. (2.2-12.2.2007 (B2906) at right, via Fahnemann Projects.)

Given the simple construct of a week-long exposure combined with a nearly infinite variety of flower types and colors, Wesely has produced a surprisingly varied body of work. What sounds mundane is anything but; each bouquet performs a unique lyrical dance as the flowers slowly swoon and wilt. For pictures that claim to be “still”, there is an amazing amount of ghostly movement in these images, creating an impressionistic layering of blurred light and color. What I like about these works is that they can be read on one level as conceptual exercises, and on another, simply as floral still lifes of unexpected elegance and beauty.

Collector’s POV: Michael Wesely is represented by Fahnemann Projects in Berlin (here). The artist’s work has not appeared in the secondary markets with much frequency; the lots that have sold in the past few years have ranged in price between $4000 and $13000.

As admirers of floral photography, these images would fit right into one of our core collecting genres. Unfortunately, given their generally large size (the image above is printed approximately 50×50, but many are as large as 70×95), we likely would have a problem with finding a place to display these massive works.

Transit Hub:

  • Artist site (here)
  • Open Shutter @MoMA, 2004 (here)

Read more about: Michael Wesely, Fahnemann Projects, Schirmer/Mosel

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