Perceived Artificiality

Photography’s perceived contingency upon reality makes it ripe for exploiting our expectations and playing with our perceptions. Frank van der Salm’s photographs currently exhibited at Galerie Akinci do just this. Indeed, it is in their tenuous relationships to reality that the diverse group of images is united.

 There is an evening cityscape, the empty interior of an arcade, a mountainous landscape filtered through window blinds, a white image from which faint building outlines emerge, a vibrant indoor display of flowers, and an abstracted composition of multicolored vertical stripes. While no one photograph seem entirely implausible, each raises subtle questions about its veracity.

The images are, in fact, “authentic” to the extent that van der Salm does not manipulate his subjects. He is a highly selective image-maker who travels the world to find his many subjects. Some photographs’ perceived artificiality stems from in-camera manipulations controlling focus, exposure length, and the tilt and shift of the lens and film planes. Others images reveal the artificial and the hyper-real in our everyday lives.

While van der Salm doesn’t appear to limit himself stylistically, formal concerns are always as important as conceptual ones. Comparisons to painters and other photographers abound; Atmosphere conjures up a subtle Robert Ryman canvas; Spectrum recalls Gene Davis and the Color Field painters; Arcade is reminiscent of an enormous Gursky interior; and Bouquet looks like the glossy backdrop of a David LaChapelle photograph.

Van der Salm’s ambiguous images demonstrate the ability of photography to transcend mere representation. They ask us to review and expand our presumptions about what’s “real”, refining our skills of perception and relearning how to look.

--Andrea Alessi

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