Monday, 11 June 2012

Albrecht Tübke

There are certain social situations which are great levellers, situations in which no material possessions or aspirational social markers give away anything about an individual. The beach is one such place (if you exclude which actual beach a person may be visiting) and someone sunbathing next to you or swimming near you could be a millionaire or pauper, a saint or a sinner. Albrecht Tübke's 'Heads', a series of portraits taken of swimmers, is a fascinating sociological study for these reasons and more. By shooting just the head and shoulders of his subjects, all emerging from the water and all fixedly staring at the camera, Tübke makes the viewer read the faces, imagine the character and speculate on who each person is. There is a real degree of trust needed in being photographed in such an intimate state - almost naked, no make-up, perhaps just some goggles or a hat to hide behind - and Tübke seems to achieve that. The way the sea reflects the sunlight to give such an all-round even light only enhances the lines, the colour of the subjects' eyes, the variations in skin tones, and makes this a study of different physiognomies; a riveting and beautifully simple set of photographs.
Tubke, born in Liepzig in 1971, has photographed many different portraits series over the years, his style inevitably drawing comparisons with Rineke Djikstra, and yet exploring wider themes in his work, including fashion and the subtleties of its many tribes.  As Tübke says: “I want to show people from a variety of different backgrounds, as I am interested in the range of ways in which people present their public face. Though constant exposure to the multitude of public personae with which we are presented, we have become anaesthetised to the range of individuals that surround us. In this project, I am attempting to distil out something of the essence of that individual.”
With this series, 'Heads' he does just that.

All images © Albrecht Tübke