Thomas Kellner: The Artist Distorting Your Perspective of the World

02#10, Paris, Tour Eiffel, 1997 | © Thomas Kellner
02#10, Paris, Tour Eiffel, 1997 | © Thomas Kellner
Photo of Jessica Miller
9 June 2017

Many of us visit sites of interest, take a quick snap, then leave soon after; taking the vulnerable history and culture in front of us for granted. Thomas Kellner’s work offers an alternative view of famous landmarks, one that intends to question our thoughts on how we visually process them and develop a sense of place.

German photographer and artist, Thomas Kellner, uses the traditional process of film photography to create montages. Using just one roll of film, Kellner often takes images of the same landmarks or buildings of significance from different angles to later re-arrange them on a contact sheet and create a unique composition.

The series Monuments and Black & White for example, play on the topic of tourism by deconstructing iconic architecture. Mass-produced images used on postcards, and guidebooks of varied locations and landmarks build up our expectation of place, and we subconsciously (or consciously) attempt to recreate this imagery when taking our own holiday photos. Kellner’s work manipulates these subjects to adapt the ways we look at both images of, and the physical buildings themselves.

If we don’t physically experience a place, we don’t have the ability to know it through any other means, beyond postcards and guidebooks. Each monument and landmark has its own history, and his montages encourage us to consider their cultural value and reconnect with them.

Black and White: 41#02, Washington, Capitol, 2004, BW-Print, 26,8 x 35,2 cm | © Thomas Kellner

The jumbled effect seen in Kellner’s work – where the details of each subject don’t quite fit together, suggest movement and change. They are fragmented and almost broken, going against the view we have of landmarks: we expect them to be never changing – just still, and always there at our consumerist disposal. These montages encourage us to look at them in a new way and present a vulnerability that tourist imagery doesn’t capture.

Monuments : 03#03 Paris, Notre Dame 2, 1997, C-Print, 19,5 x 25,0 cm. | © Thomas Kellner

There are greater details shown in each individual image making up the contact sheet that are often missed when looking at a building in its entirety – here we are asked to consider looking at the structure from different angles, and closer up than before. When studying each of Kellner’s works, we get drawn to individual pillars, windows and patterns, perhaps as initially visualised by the great architects who created them.

During our future travels, from the selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower, to daily walks to work over Tower Bridge; let’s all take a moment to appreciate the craft and history embedded in the structures around us.

Thomas Kellner will be exhibiting in England at the Fox Talbot Museum in Wiltshire from June 24 to September 24, 2017.

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