Maximilian Zeitler will be presenting his first solo exhibition ‘Ambrotypien’ at Haus am Mierendorffplatz, opening this Wednesday, January 25th.
Zeitler uses a technique known as the Collodion wet plate-technique to create his striking photographic portraits, capturing perfectly the raw self of the models. Their essence penetrates through each shot and reveals their flaws and intimacies, allowing for a more honest impression of entity to seep through. The photographs peel back the layers of the model, conveying emotions of pride, anxiety and anger to the viewer and expressing their inner personality traits.
The process is a fairly precise, complex and light sensitive process, in which the image is taken with a lens from 1872 and is developed onto clear glass instantaneously after the picture has been taken. It is a highly-skilled and experienced approach to photography, yet leaves plenty of room for error to occur. These defaults, however, only add to the hint of immanent characteristics that the 100-year-old camera produces. Zeitler requires the models to remain completely still for the 7-to-10 second exposure time, hindering the ability to hide or portray a specific expression to the lens. Interestingly, the lips in each photograph are noticeably tense, perhaps caused by the uncomfortableness of remaining still for so long in front of the camera, something that we are not so often confronted with in the era of Instagram.
The viewer cannot help but allow time to stop as they fixate on each model and take them in, in their entirety. There is a striking contrast between the modern faces, which are rarely considered without a modern setting, and the antique feel to the photograph. This type of photography tends to be associated with the American Civil War, as its origins were in the 1850s. The method triggers a conflicting reaction for visitors, creating a paradox between old and new, making it extremely difficult to contextualise.
The photographs are an inimitable experience, the process is unique and so is every single image. The result is an extraordinarily sharp and incredibly defined image, accompanied by the inevitable imperfections of handcraft. Coinciding with this sharp definition is the intriguing antique aura of old photographs. Zeitler’s photographs are highly expressive images, conveying a sensation that cannot be imitated by contemporary photographic methods. In a society where life moves at such a fast pace, Zeitler’s work is slow and soothing in both senses; a slow development process and slow contemplation for the viewer.