Public places were a meeting point for centuries. People socialized, made politics and bought their food on the market. To meet others in the public was essential to our lives. Today however, public places in industrialized countries have changed their role since mostly although people walk over them, they are not even perceived on the way from point A to point B as Richard Sennett demonstrated¹.
However, for three reasons public places should be taken into account while analyzing society and the role of people in it. First, to go to work and back home is consuming a lot of our time and most people without a car cross a public place doing so. In addition, while walking over places people tend to act naturally since they feel unobserved. Thirdly public places are one of the rare occasions to see or meet somebody that one would never meet otherwise.
In that way public places are a mirror of society. Demonstrating this and analyzing people’s behaviours is one central objective of my work. The observer should feel a part of the scenario. To get involved with the work means to draw own conclusions on the role of the people, the dependencies between them and the influence of the place itself. The work itself serves as a catalyst to increase sensibility of the reception of one’s life.
In my work anything distracting from the people on the places is eliminated. For instance architecture is completely removed. All pictures are exposed in the afternoon and the viewpoint is slightly elevated. Therefore a series of momentary impressions allows the perception of the relation of people on the places to each other. The place itself can be sensed but its historical dimensions are less important than in the work of Thomas Struth².
The ground of public places is mostly rather monochrome. The light situation and the material of the ground compose an abstract image for themselves. The people on the places often come across like a disturbance of a smooth surface. This amplifies the focus on them and reveals what otherwise would remain unnoticed.
¹ The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities, Richard Sennett, 1992, Norton and Company
² Excerpt from an Interview between Isabelle Graw and Thomas Struth, 1989, Friedrich Christian Flick Collection at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin 2005