Florian Maier-Aichen is a 36 year-old German photographer whose interesting experimental landscape work positions him somewhere very different from his more famous peers, such as Gursky and Strüth. Based between California and Cologne, his images are an individual, unique reinterpretation of classic landscape and cityscape photography. Referencing the work of masters of the field such as Carleton Watkins or Ansel Adams, Maier-Aichen often shoots clichéd scenes but does something strange with them. Aerial views, subtle comping of pictures, or odd effects applied to the final print create images that feel both familiar and ‘off’, playing with our sense of perception.
Using different techniques for different projects, Maier-Aichen questions what an idealized landscape photograph should look like. In 2005 he shot images in California on colour infra-red film, rendering well-known American vistas like the Pacific Coast Highway or the popular tourist location Lake June as inhospitable, martian landscapes. His 2004 photograph of Long Beach is like an industrialized Ansel Adams take on a huge, mechanized city; a view no human eye could ever see. Deliberately choosing the industrial backside of Los Angeles and adding the mountain range in post-production, Maier-Aichen, shows us a strange, dystopian, sprawling view of an instantly recognisable city in a new and unexpected way.
In ‘Chamonix, 2007’ he mimics a Kodachrome postcard of an idyllic alpine scene, but shoots the image from a dirt car park, complete with tyre tracks in the foreground. Another mountain scene from that year shows a winding alpine pass zig-zagging under a sky whose clouds are all printed out of register, creating a psychedelic sky above the snowy peaks.
Other images are shot at night from the air, with only twinkling lights alluding to the presence of a city, or in an alpine valley in the middle of a snowstorm, all but obscuring the view. The Maersk tanker photographs are also disconcerting – one showing a vessel seemingly reflected in glassily calm water, the other showing a capsized tanker with its cargo bobbing in the ocean…or does it?
Unfortunately a computer screen really doesn’t do these photographs justice. Some of the prints are 1 or 2 meters wide, and the level of detail is breathtaking. If you’re ever somewhere like The Whitney, MOCA or the Saatchi Gallery they are definitely worth seeing in person.