Araki Teller, Teller Araki

At the initiative of the OstLicht Gallery and Peter Coeln in Vienna, ‘Araki Teller, Teller Araki’ which took place from the 4th of April until the 25th of May of this year, brought together two of the most important photographers of our times, showing new works conceived for this joint exhibition and entering into an artistic dialogue. The exhibition presented the encounter between two attitudes of extraordinary photographers, who are united in their radical artistic attitude and their almost insatiable hunger for images as reflections of their personal experience of the world. The elementary interest at the core of their work is the spiritual and physical ambivalence of human existence. To coincide with the exhibition Antenna Books in a collaboration with Araki’s own eyesencia released Nobuyoshi Araki‘s and Juergen Teller‘s first jointly conceived and designed book. The publication assembles more than 300 photographs, including those works shown as part of the exhibition which were previously unpublished. In addition, Araki and Teller have each dedicated a text to the other.

Araki showed works from the project he has been pursuing since 2012: ‘Last by Leica’. This is a kind of visual diary in which he draws his photographic impressions and ideas together into a touching commentary on his life, artistic work and working method. The meaning of the title Last by Leica is twofold: Araki uses the last analogous camera produced by Leica, a Leica M7, for this project. Thus, he understands this series as homage to silver halide photography. On the other hand, Araki’s Last by Leica forms the final installment in a series he began in the 1980s with ‘Life by Leica’ and continued in 2000 with ‘Love by Leica’, a collection of female portraits and nude photographs.

After suffering a stroke and losing sight in his right eye, ‘Last by Leica’ also contains a self-portrait taken at the hospital and images of an electrocardiogram. These are juxtaposed with images from his current series ‘Paradise, depicting dolls and flowers in front of a black backdrop’. Here, Araki tries to revive paradise, triving to leave behind the darkness, the sorrow and the shadows of death accompanying his life. Finally, selections from his life’s project of several decades, ‘Someone’s Wife’, complete the selection.

With this show and book Juergen Teller proves himself a storyteller. Whether he portraying actors of Berlin’s Schaubühne, which were sold at the inspirational Front Row by CFA Berlin, to rendering a woman who is not afraid to show her age for Vivienne Westwood’s spring campaign, presenting the his own nude upper body and those of his colleagues under the title ‘Betriebsausflug’, offering us irritatingly beautiful pictures of his private trip to India or showing his idol Araki in an ironic pose: Juergen Teller allows us to participate in his life through his works. In the exhibition, he juxtaposed a new complex of works entitled ‘Woo!’ with Araki’s ‘Last of Leica series’. ‘Woo!’ was also the title of his show at ICA (London 2013), where he covered the walls of the gallery with his photographs resulting in a huge photo collage on site. Initially planned with proof pages relating to his commercial photography Teller included some more pictures from his twenty- year spanning career.

The collage formed hitherto unforeseen relationships across time, which Teller then photographically reassessed as a form of self-reflection and deconstruction. Many of these images were shown in Vienna as prints for the first time. Not only in formal contrast is the series ‘Irene im Wald’, which leads into a thicket near his home town, accompanied by personal anecdotes and childhood memories. It is an intimate portrait of the forest and the Teller family, a love letter to his mother Irene.

Nobuyoshi Araki was born in Minowa, Tokyo, in 1940. He launched his artistic career in 1964 with photographs of children in the city; afterwards Araki photographed his own honeymoon. These photographs were published in the volume Sentimental Journey, which has acquired legend status today. During the 1970s, Araki gradually left behind press and journalistic photography and started to explore the existential questions and abysses of human life instead, turning increasingly towards erotic themes. In his photographs, he developed a unique visual handwriting, creating a poetic portrayal of human passion which points beyond Japanese culture. During this time, he also began to publish his photographs in Garo, the avant-garde manga magazine and Shashin Jidai. Araki invented the concept of the photographic ego, signifying the intriguing interplay between fiction, fact and desire.

Juergen Teller is one of the stars of contemporary photography. Born in Franconia in 1964, he made a name for himself as the photographer of the grunge movement in London early on, producing pictures of musicians like Kurt Cobain and magazine covers. During the 1990s he revolutionized art and fashion photography with distinctive images dealing with the fragmentary identities and surfaces of the fashion world and models. With his new and unique approach to photography, he enjoyed success in magazines such as Vogue, The Face and ID. Breaking the codes of beauty and fashion, his images of models like Kate Moss and Kristen McMenamy became icons. His works question our society’s cult of beauty; consciously showing physical flaws, his visual idiom satirizes the need of our times for perfection. Like Araki, Teller has long explored existential issues of physical existence and sexuality, testing how close photography can get to reality, which he through the years has proved to be painfully close.

The exhibition was curated by Gerald Matt in cooperation with Hisako Motoo (eyesencia) and Juergen Teller.

For more information and to order the book see here.