Thursday, November 29, 2007

Looking at Thinking

The most intriguing photographs I have come across recently are those of Patrick Lakey. A body of work entitled "German Photographs (1794-2005)" is a fascinating intersection of art, history, and philosophy.

Here is what he does. Lakey goes around Germany and photographs the homes and landscapes of celebrated German philosophers, including Schiller, Engels, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Goethe. (Technically I think these represent the 'German Enlightment'?) The resulting photographs are still and beautiful, revealing and withholding.

For what is the relationship between external and internal? What clues might the external offer as to what went on internally? The cool, sparse rooms reveal both somber chambers of thought and also ordinary rooms, which could have belonged to any German family of the time. Is there a clue in the outside world, Lakey seems to be asking. A clue to what leads certain individuals to think for their entire lives, and be able along the way to offer great theories of thought and being. Would the thoughts of such an individual leave an imprint on his external surroundings? Is there any physical manifestation of so much thinking?

Another satisfying aspect of this series is the use of photography as a device, rather than an end in itself. While the photographs are beautiful, it is the concept that deepens the experience, and the medium truly functions as tool to bring the viewer to this idea.