For the past three decades, Josef Koudelka has used his Leica like a panoramic camera. Twelve of these large-format black-and-white are now on display at the Pace MacGill Gallery in New York. The exhibition is a selection of the best works from this period, and visitors can rediscover the coastal landscapes and industrial zones of Europe and the Middle East, some of which were featured in Vestiges, the traveling 2012 Koudelka exhibition
From his commissioned investigation of the French-English region impacted by the Channel Tunnel for La Mission Photographique Transmanche project, to his exploration of the political climate in Israel and Palestine, and his most recent documentation of the persistence of classicism along the Mediterranean rim, Koudelka has continuously used panoramic cameras to showcase terrains that have been significantly shaped, altered, and even devastated by the effects of industry, time, and territorial conflict.
“There is something somber and disquieting about Koudelka’s panoramas,” says Julian Cox, head curator of the Museum of Fine Arts in San Francisco. “There is something somber and disquieting about Koudelka’s panoramas. On the one hand, they are statements of fact and unstintingly particular in what they describe, but, on the other, they also function as a system of ideas as well as a ravishing feast for the eyes. Their beauty captivates, even if they do not provide an entirely hopeful picture for today or tomorrow… They are expansive in form and yet, repeatedly, their bounding frame formulates space by limiting it, simultaneously lavishing the imagination with a sense of vision beyond what is shown.”
Koudelka’s photographs are devoid of human figures but not of human presence. The scars of mining operations, industrial exploitation, and constructed physical barriers are evident in these sites, intensified by the photographer’s vantage point and use of graphic contrast. Koudelka’s panoramas are not conventional, picturesque vistas; rather, these dramatically desolate yet strikingly beautiful images stand as records of the ruins of modern civilization and archeological documents of mankind’s complex and chaotic relationship with nature and power.
Josef Koudelka, Twelve Panoramas – 1987-2012
Through February 14th 2015
PACE McGill Gallery
508 West 25th Street
New York NY 10001