Lost Track

January 24th, 2011
by imagitect

On january 4 Raoul Kramer (1978) presented his self-published book ‘Lost Track’ in Gallery Bart in Amsterdam.

As a photographer Kramer, despite his young age, has already progressed quite a bit. From confronting photojournalism in the West Bank through picturesque portraits of families in China, he went on to a more abstract kind of photography: simply capturing what's there without necessarily being beautiful or narrative.

‘Lost Track’ tells the story of the railway built around 65 years ago, with forced labor in Burma and Thailand. Kramer's grandfather was one of the surviving labourers and often told stories about it. In 2009 the young Kramer looked at the remnants of the track through the eye of his anologe camera.
With the stories of his grandfather in his head it's like a trip back in time. The book is beautifully constructed with photos shot every few kilometers which reveal a deeper meaning only because of the captions. A few hills, some rocks, a few trees, at first glance it seems a meaningless picture but if you read the accompanying story on the left page you suddenly look at it with very different eyes. The design by Eva van der Schans is also very efficient: caption on the left page, photo on the right, lots of white space around the text, unadorned, old, randomly and vertically placed, authentic black and white photographs enclosed separately.

In an interview with curator Marga Rotteveel Raoul Kramer talks about his work as a photographer. Interesting is how his way of taking pictures has changed over the years. Not so much in the technical sense but rather the way he captures something and what they want to achieve. Are you party to a conflict situation and taking the picture to confront people with injustice or do you try to make attractive, beautiful pictures, or purely capture what there is without ulterior motives?

Actually I think photography can be seen from just a few angles.

  • Photos with an aesthetic value: beauty through composition, colors, shadow / light etc. and possibly enhanced by a very appealing subject (such as a beautiful animal or nature scene). Examples include landscape photographs but also abstract art photography.
  • Photos that tell a story which is immediately clear: there is a story without you having to know the background information. Often there is a kind of symbolism by a combination of the elements in the image that's self-explanatory. This includes strong journalistic photographs or portrait photographs that express emotion or street photography where something familiar is put in a unique context.
  • Photos that are not interesting by themselves but get meaning when you know the story behind it. The photo will therefore only get an extra dimension when the corresponding “story” is known. I think this includes snapshots; holiday- and family pictures etc.. But also for example the pictures in the book ‘Lost Track’.

In fact, there is still fourth angle: the photograph that simply captures what is without the need to be beautiful, narrative or interesting. It could be called an art form. Perhaps an anti-photo?

More about Lost Track and ordering information can be found comment

Posted in Books, Photography, Pictures | Comments (2)

2 Responses to “Lost Track”

  1. Raoul says:

    Beauty is a subjective thing, largely taught except for a number of elements such as symmetry. An aesthetic value is like an investment, the value determined by steering in the market :) maybe that's valid for a Western world…. but is it universal? = is beautifal really beautiful?

    Thanks for the nicely written piece

    Regards Raoul

  2. imagitect says:

    Totally agree with you that beauty / aesthetics is a subjective and changeable thing, and in large part determined by the culture in which a person grows up and what is in fashion. But from the photographer's point of view, it's not that relevant. The described approaches angles are meant to describe what the photographer himself wants to convey with the photo. If he (or she) finds a picture beautiful or thinks that the story behind it is clear at first glance and presents it as such, that is the choice and the angle of the photographer. If the person who sees the picture agrees, is another thing and indeed depends on many factors ;-)

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