Article by Martha Lochhead // Dec. 19, 2019
‘Traveling Light’ is Kira Bunse’s second solo show at Italic, a small exhibition space in Berlin Mitte. The gallery was formerly a foyer in the Leipziger Straße Complex, a row of socialist apartment blocks on Leipziger Straße, built in the GDR’s signature architectural style. Italic’s floor and right-side wall are fitted with white tiles, which are divided with black grout lines. Bunse’s photographic images are displayed against the stark white paint of the other two gallery walls.
Bunse is a successful German fashion photographer now based in Paris. In her fashion work she uses a digital camera, but ‘Traveling Light’ exhibits a selection of photographs taken on her analogue camera over the past two years. The images are hand-printed directly from the negative, so there is no digital intervention. Ethereal, dream-like and intimate are the words that come to mind when looking at her photographs. They have the relaxed quality of a holiday snapshot; ‘São Paulo 2019’ captures light coming through the curtains of a darkened room, with the shadows of the window sash bars cast on the folds of the fabric.
People are not present in the majority of images and yet each photo captures something human. Her photographs are the intimate settings of the traces of people. ‘Los Angeles 2017’ presents two cushions on the ground next to the bottom of a tree trunk on a sidewalk. Her images may appear to be snapshots—dreamy, grainy stills of beautiful coral clouds or the morning sun casting shadows on a cotton curtain—but her gaze is precise, there is nothing accidental in her photographs. These two cushions – one a pale pastel green with fringing and the other a pink and green 50s-style floral fabric evocative of an elderly aunt’s living room – were discarded on the street. Bunse has captured their displacement in the warm Los Angeles light.
The photographs are exhibited in the gallery space in accordance with the time and location of their taking. As we walk through the images, we follow on Bunse’s personal journey. Perhaps the most endearing photograph is ‘Île Du Levant 2019,’ which takes centre stage in the exhibition space; a large print, alone on the wall facing the entrance. Bunse has captured an older couple, their backs to the camera, as they walk up a hill. The gentleman uses a walking stick and wears nothing but sandals and a white sports cap. The woman next to him is wrapped in a blue, floral-printed beach towel. The sky is bright and overexposed, making it look almost celestial. These are the only people featured in the photographs and yet it is only their backs that we see, allowing for speculation about who they are and where they’re going.
The pink-hued colour palette of the photographs is soft and warm, giving a peaceful and harmonious impression to Bunse’s vision. The graininess of the analogue film adds to this calming quality of the images. Each photograph offers a different impression of the everyday, presented through the careful and precise eye of Kira Bunse.