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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion- Oct 2017 - Gursky's Rhein II

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minniev
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Monthly Masters' Discussion- Oct 2017 - Gursky's Rhein II

Post by minniev » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:41 am

In 2011, a print of Andreas Gursky'€™s Rhein II sold for $4.3 million at Christie'€™s in New York. This particular print was one of an edition of six, of which four are in museums like Tate and MOMA. Gursky has been recognized as a modern master in many art circles since the 1980s, but this simply composed abstract-like landscape has drawn both praise and scorn from critics and from the photographers. It is telling that many of the top Google hits for articles about the print are titled similarly, often including the word "Why?"

Gursky is often praised for his technical skill with the camera and in the digital darkroom, as well as his meticulous printing. But conversations continue even now about the appeal of the image itself. What is your opinion of Rhein II?

Here's some questions to guide your thinking as you study this image.
1. What do you think of the composition? The detail? The colors? How does the image make you feel?
2. Would you want this image on your own wall? Why or why not?
3. Why do you think the image has been so highly valued? Do you agree with that value?
4. Does it affect your opinion to know that Gursky used digital editing to remove the buildings that were in the original, in order to achieve the look he wanted?
5. Do you consider Rhein II to be art? Why or why not?
6. Have you made any images similar to Rhein II? If so, did Rhein II influence your thinking when you made the image? (If you have your own Rhein II, we hope you’ll post it in the thread and discuss your thinking.)

Here's some links to more information about Gursky, his work, and about Rhein II
Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhein_II
Gursky's own site http://www.andreasgursky.com/en
One of the "Why" articles: https://petapixel.com/2011/11/14/why-gu ... ive-photo/
Another "Why" article https://expertphotography.com/the-world ... -so-great/
An interesting discussion on a photo forum: http://forum.luminous-landscape.com/ind ... c=59361.60
MOMA's Gursky page https://www.moma.org/artists/7806
The Tate's Gursky page http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gur ... -ii-p78372
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"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by Charles Haacker » Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:28 pm

I really, really like the picture. I admit that I have always been pretty surprised at the price it fetched, especially with the artist still living. I am very familiar with the controversy, nicely summed up in the Wikipedia piece: The work has been described by arts writer Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph as a "vibrant, beautiful and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on [...] the romantic landscape" and by journalist Maev Kennedy in The Guardian as "a sludgy image of the grey Rhine under grey skies". And there is the controversy in a nutshell. Viewers, especially critics, seem to love it or hate it. I can't say I love it, but I do definitely like it very much. Absolutely I would have it on my wall, which I can assert since I would never ever be able to afford one. :rofl:

I find it very, very peaceful and restful. It's the sort of image that, in a museum, one can sit on a bench and contemplate for a while, not really thinking about anything. One can also sit quietly by a river and watch it flow endlessly past, as Daphne and I often did with the Mississippi. The picture seems paradoxically to have symmetry, but actually it doesn't. The upper precise half is barely-there overcast sky. The lower half has five rigidly horizontal stripes, but no two are the exact same width. It seems to have only two actual colors: rich green and very pastel blue. Everything else is black, white and shades of gray, yet the picture does not lack contrast, it is by no means flat because all 10 zones are there. At high magnification there seems to be a curious anomaly, a tiny red something-or-other on the far left of the near bank, and directly opposite on the far bank is a set of steps coming down from the dike. I imagine Gursky left them there so as to break the perfection of the piece, a deliberate flaw. I know he edited out things he did not want, and being one who happily deletes things from pictures that I feel distract I have no argument with it. I see this as Art, Capital A, and if it were a painting then of course the painter would paint in what he wanted and leave out what he didn't. I think the digital age is miraculous in that it allows photographers to develop (pun intended) the skills to do what painters have always done. Many of us (me) are photographers because we have an artistic bent but can neither draw not paint. 8):

No, I don't think I have ever made a similar picture to Rhein II, but I am the guy who insists he ain't not no artiste. I simply lack the imagination. I am, for the most part, a documentary photographer. I'd love to be an artiste but I ain't got it in me. (?) :D
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by minniev » Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:45 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:I really, really like the picture. I admit that I have always been pretty surprised at the price it fetched, especially with the artist still living. I am very familiar with the controversy, nicely summed up in the Wikipedia piece: The work has been described by arts writer Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph as a "vibrant, beautiful and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on [...] the romantic landscape" and by journalist Maev Kennedy in The Guardian as "a sludgy image of the grey Rhine under grey skies". And there is the controversy in a nutshell. Viewers, especially critics, seem to love it or hate it. I can't say I love it, but I do definitely like it very much. Absolutely I would have it on my wall, which I can assert since I would never ever be able to afford one. :rofl:

I find it very, very peaceful and restful. It's the sort of image that, in a museum, one can sit on a bench and contemplate for a while, not really thinking about anything. One can also sit quietly by a river and watch it flow endlessly past, as Daphne and I often did with the Mississippi. The picture seems paradoxically to have symmetry, but actually it doesn't. The upper precise half is barely-there overcast sky. The lower half has five rigidly horizontal stripes, but no two are the exact same width. It seems to have only two actual colors: rich green and very pastel blue. Everything else is black, white and shades of gray, yet the picture does not lack contrast, it is by no means flat because all 10 zones are there. At high magnification there seems to be a curious anomaly, a tiny red something-or-other on the far left of the near bank, and directly opposite on the far bank is a set of steps coming down from the dike. I imagine Gursky left them there so as to break the perfection of the piece, a deliberate flaw. I know he edited out things he did not want, and being one who happily deletes things from pictures that I feel distract I have no argument with it. I see this as Art, Capital A, and if it were a painting then of course the painter would paint in what he wanted and leave out what he didn't. I think the digital age is miraculous in that it allows photographers to develop (pun intended) the skills to do what painters have always done. Many of us (me) are photographers because we have an artistic bent but can neither draw not paint. 8):

No, I don't think I have ever made a similar picture to Rhein II, but I am the guy who insists he ain't not no artiste. I simply lack the imagination. I am, for the most part, a documentary photographer. I'd love to be an artiste but I ain't got it in me. (?) :D


Thanks for jumping in the water first, Chuck, with a wonderfully detailed analysis. We all learn from your knowledge and experience, the years of which most of us cannot ever accumulate. I have a couple of Gursky-ish shots that I saw and thought of Rhein II at the time of capture, and one where I thought of it as I edited. I still am not sure whether I like Rhein II or not (or whether I like my own versions). I hope we can draw some others into the discussion!
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by LindaShorey » Mon Oct 02, 2017 3:18 pm

1. and 2. How does it make me feel and would I want to own it? For me the composition is too rigid and unnatural to be restful. It looks like a man-made walking path along a man-made canal, where I would prefer more nature and/or wilderness. Opposite that, I'm not sure I get the "sense of unease" that Rockwell mentions in one of links either. So I really don't have an emotional response other than I'm a bit bored. So I will pass on possessing :)

However, I also recognize that there is no way we can truly appreciate the work unless we're standing in front of it. Twelve feet wide, right? The true impact: size, colors, resolution - impossible to judge via a computer.

3. Value. I think it's important to separate whether one is making a purchase for investment (art, real estate, jewelry) or pleasure. If for pleasure, it is a very personal decision as to how much something is worth.

I can't relate to a purchase of a $500 pair of shoes or a $50,000 car, let alone paying millions for "whatever," but I can understand if someone has the money and would derive great personal pleasure, why they would choose to buy those things.

4. and 5. Digital editing and definition of art. I have no problem with someone presenting their interpretation or their vision of any subject or scene, as long as it's not a deliberate attempt to mislead ("news" and other documentary-type situations). As regards what is or is not art, I have almost no formal education in art and no affiliation to any academic community or professional artists or gallery owners or close friends who are "into" art of any kind. Without those influences, I am really only interested in what pleases me personally on a basic emotional level.

6. My own photos: I don't have any similar images because the flat light is so uninteresting to me (the "sludgy gray" reference) and as I mentioned earlier, the rigidity of the man-made lines is the opposite of restful. If I were doing something abstract (which is sort of how I classify this photo, I guess), I'd likely go more colorful or textured or dynamic. And if I wanted peaceful, I'd go softer (fog, slightly curved lines).

Influence: the past four years in particular have found me more likely to be inspired or influenced by online photo buddies than by a Master :)
"What's important in a photograph and what isn't." http://photographylife.com/whats-import ... -what-isnt

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Post by Graham Smith » Mon Oct 02, 2017 4:10 pm

Being a man of few words all I can say is that I find this picture to be very powerful in that it leads to contemplation, it forces you to think. It gives you space and time to think.

That's it
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Post by minniev » Mon Oct 02, 2017 5:04 pm

Graham Smith wrote:Being a man of few words all I can say is that I find this picture to be very powerful in that it leads to contemplation, it forces you to think. It gives you space and time to think.

That's it


And that's a plenty, thanks for chiming in. The size of this print gives me some pause and makes me suspect it has more appeal in person than online. It is definitely not an image that forces you to react in a certain way.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by minniev » Mon Oct 02, 2017 6:34 pm

LindaShorey wrote:1. and 2. How does it make me feel and would I want to own it? For me the composition is too rigid and unnatural to be restful. It looks like a man-made walking path along a man-made canal, where I would prefer more nature and/or wilderness. Opposite that, I'm not sure I get the "sense of unease" that Rockwell mentions in one of links either. So I really don't have an emotional response other than I'm a bit bored. So I will pass on possessing :)

However, I also recognize that there is no way we can truly appreciate the work unless we're standing in front of it. Twelve feet wide, right? The true impact: size, colors, resolution - impossible to judge via a computer.

3. Value. I think it's important to separate whether one is making a purchase for investment (art, real estate, jewelry) or pleasure. If for pleasure, it is a very personal decision as to how much something is worth.

I can't relate to a purchase of a $500 pair of shoes or a $50,000 car, let alone paying millions for "whatever," but I can understand if someone has the money and would derive great personal pleasure, why they would choose to buy those things.

4. and 5. Digital editing and definition of art. I have no problem with someone presenting their interpretation or their vision of any subject or scene, as long as it's not a deliberate attempt to mislead ("news" and other documentary-type situations). As regards what is or is not art, I have almost no formal education in art and no affiliation to any academic community or professional artists or gallery owners or close friends who are "into" art of any kind. Without those influences, I am really only interested in what pleases me personally on a basic emotional level.

6. My own photos: I don't have any similar images because the flat light is so uninteresting to me (the "sludgy gray" reference) and as I mentioned earlier, the rigidity of the man-made lines is the opposite of restful. If I were doing something abstract (which is sort of how I classify this photo, I guess), I'd likely go more colorful or textured or dynamic. And if I wanted peaceful, I'd go softer (fog, slightly curved lines).

Influence: the past four years in particular have found me more likely to be inspired or influenced by online photo buddies than by a Master :)


Thank you for your honest and detailed response! You're describing pretty much how I felt about it the first time I saw it. My view is gradually mellowing a bit.

The values placed on artworks baffles me. I understand what you mean about the rigidity of the composition. My first impression of this image when it came onto the scene after the "big sale" was that "you have to be kidding." I admit it has grown on me as an abstract landscape, and I've become less off-put about its subdued color palette. Thinking about it presented large has also made it more appealing. So over time, I'm not as scornful of Rhein II as I was the first time I saw it, and I don't think it has much to do with art, just with me.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by PietFrancke » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:05 pm

this one does nothing for me.. It is AntiArt. I despise this image - we can say it is "art" because someone of authority says it. This is like a pontiff saying "there is a God". We must find God on our own - the pontiffs of our world are not to be trusted.

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Post by minniev » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:16 pm

PietFrancke wrote:this one does nothing for me.. It is AntiArt. I despise this image - we can say it is "art" because someone of authority says it. This is like a pontiff saying "there is a God". We must find God on our own - the pontiffs of our world are not to be trusted.


It is OK to despise it, Piet, particularly when you do it philosophically and poetically as is your manner.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by Matt Quinn » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:39 am

6. Have you made any images similar to Rhein II? If so, did Rhein II influence your thinking when you made the image? (If you have your own Rhein II, we hope you’ll post it in the thread and discuss your thinking.)

Minnie has suggested that I post one of my images here and comment on what I did and why.

First, a comment on Gursky's Rhein II. I would need to see the original to make an appropriate remark. I once tried to explain to a friend why I stood for 15 minutes in front of this painting by Hans Hofman in the Baltimore Museum of Art, and walked away only because they were closing. Cameras are allowed -- no flash -- so I showed him my photo of the painting.
Hans Hofman painting (1 of 1).jpg
Predictable reaction; ho-hum. I feel the same as I look at my photo now. But the original stopped me and held me. The same might be true for Rhein II, if I could see it.

Cost: I hope Gursky got something directly from this transaction. Probably not the way these things work. But if one has the money for such purchase, it keeps encouraging others to create in hope for that lottery ticket. More importantly, it keeps art alive.

My photo.

PCB sunset, Monthly Masters (1 of 1).jpg


I am drawn to water, especially moving water that ripples and rolls. Not so much waterfalls or cascades. And I try to capture the effects of the moving ripples on the reflections of static objects such as grass, rocks, or trees. Bubbles are a dividend. I enjoy viewing the contrast between the gritty sand and smooth surface of the water, the three dimensionality of the tiny hillocks in the ripples, the range of tones, especially in b&w photos. I posted this in color because its impact is greater, I believe. The first sunset is over, the second is pausing, the grass is still but the water is moving. Day will end, night will come, the grass will stay stay rooted, but the water will continue to move as the tide ebbs and flows.

I am grateful to Erich and Dave for their counsel some weeks back, to get closer to the grass and get down low so the blades break the horizon.

Comments welcome. Matt
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