This book has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks now, staring at me with intimidating coldness and crushing other books beneath its weight. You see the size of this thing -- 704 pages, 5kg, 250 × 320 mm. Between its size and its styling -- bright white with black-edged paper – it’s exudes enormity and guilt, the likes of which I remember feeling holding a bible as a small, small child. Perhaps it’s not even meant to be read or understood, just be oppressive in its presence.
This is the Blickfang 2012/1013 collection of Germany’s best photographers. Including 225 photographers, most of which have a 2-page spread, though some have more, the intent of providing a print forum for a collection of photographers initially reminded me of GUP’s project which began this year, NEW Dutch Photography. That’s what interested me about Blickfang’s project primarily – the idea of seeing what others are doing in similar fields, and this is now their 5th edition.
Yet, immediately when I started going through the pages, I noticed something was awry – Volkswagen? Audi? Conan O’Brien? Pretty-pretty lipstick and airbrushed skin?
After a few more emails exchanged with the editor, Norman Beckmann, all becomes clear. Blickfang is making something intentionally, unapologetically commercial.
Well, great, we’ve got that cleared up, but what am I supposed to do with it? It’s basically a bunch of ad-based photos, and we’re a magazine that likes to focus on artistic merit, and... you know, "saying something" about the field of photography. So, since then, this book has been sitting on my desk, filling me full of biblical trepidation. But, I said I’d say something about it, so I will.
If you’re interested in commercial photography, in the sense of a who’s who in Germany, this will definitely be a useful guide. It’s basically a massive index of photography-based business cards, giving working photographers a forum to get their name and style known to agents and publishers. As most of the photographers have only one photograph included, printed across the 2-page spread, it’s of course impossible to get any real sense of the photographers’ ongoing style, development, or consistent success – it really is just a business card with a single sample for a taste, and you can follow-up on their web site or representation if you’re interested to know more.
Because of this, there is possibly not nearly as much risky or original photography as you might hope for among "Germany’s Best." With only one photo to represent each person’s work, and with the intention for that photo to communicate what he or she capable of commercially, most of the photos fall into safety and a bit of blandness. Personally, I could flip through most of the book with the same interest of flipping through the ad pages of a Vogue magazine at the airport. And that’s absolutely not saying anything to discredit the photographers, but rather, expressing the vast sea of difference between what I like in photography and what the goals of the book are.
In addition to the photographers’ content, the book includes four editorial introductions and ten interviews (in German). Read more about the Blickfang Deutschlands Beste Fotografen on their web site. It’s available for sale for 49,90 EUR.