Presenting three artists’ views on photos from the American press from 1920 to 1970, the exhibition Retouched, curated by the new Centre Pompidou photography director Florian Ebner, at the Museum Folkwang in Essen shines by its acuteness. At the time of digitization signaling the disappearance of paper archives while technical progression is erasing the traces of image manipulation, updating old prints retouched by hand gives a new dimension to the materiality of images, all while revealing the photos’ rough doctoring and manipulation before their publication in the press.
Bogomir Ecker’s collection gathers a fascinating ensemble of original prints of these hand-retouched images for the press. Their small format hints at the labour of excessive enlarging carried out by two photographers from the famous Dusseldorf School of Photography: Thomas Ruff (1958) and Sebastian Riemer (1982). Artists from two generations then, who use very different techniques. Ruff superimposes the verso (caption, stamp…) on the recto of the image, but keeps the vintage aspect of the original. The young Riemer stays more minimalist and radical. He does not intervene at all on the image. He prints in black and white to erase all historical traces, all while giving an equal resolution to the entire surface of the photo. This process showcases the retouching itself, the re-orchestration of the original image while highlighting the pictorial effect of the press photo. In light of these revelations, what do we think about the conversation on the authenticity of the medium and photographed reality considering the techniques used to make it mass media?
Retouched : Bogomir Ecker, Sebastian Riemer and Thomas Ruff
April 20- June 5, 2017