As part of my research for Part 4 of this course, I looked at the work of Michael Schmidt. The course notes (page 81) tell me that this ‘Berlin based documentary photographer (1945-2014) actively sought out flat midday light.’
In direct contrast to the work of Sally Mann who used natural light to convey mood and feeling, Schmidt used flat natural light to produce images without shadow or mood. He said:
‘I prefer to work with neutral diffused light ..to produce an image without noticeable shadows. The viewer must allow the objects portrayed in the photograph to take their effect upon him without being distracted by shadows or other mood effects'(course notes p 81).
Schmidt was the winner of the 2014 Prix Pictet. His series of images, Lebansmittel (food stuff) in the category Consumption depicted the food industry from growth to supermarket. Most of his images were mono and low contrast. Low contrast photography, where the image does not use the extremes of black and white but rather, varying shades of grey, is less dramatic than an image with a deeper contrast. Schmidt was perhaps avoiding influencing the viewer by using low contrast to produce flatter, more muted images that allow the viewer to interpret the subject without distraction or influence.
This image of apple from Schmidt’s Lebansmittel series is unique in the series because it is in colour. His use of light, to produce an image with minimal shadow, helps to show the apple as it is without adding context or drama. Consequently, Schmidt produced an image that, when read in the context of his other images, shows the viewer the end result of the food consumption process without obvious intention to persuade the viewer to a particular interpretation.
Image 1 Michael Schmidt, Untitled.
Part of Consumption series.
Winner of 2013 Prix Pictet
This image of an apple appears to be very much like hundreds of other photographs of apples. As part of Schmidt’s series of images considering the food consumption industry, it is, however, effective in highlighting the over-processing of the food that we eat. This apple is the end result of the growing, selection, packaging and polishing process undertaken before the product appears on the supermarket shelves and the photographer intends that through this image, the food manufacturing process is highlighted and questioned.
This is a picture of an apple, as it is. There is no distraction from that fact. Schmidt simply shows us an apple, leaving the interpretation wholly to the viewer.
‘His pictures look simple at first glance, and their anti-sentimentality, their refusal of all the tricks of the usual seduction, their concision and their clarity, give them great efficiency. They show what they show but they manage to retain an opacity, a mystery, and they become a support for our imagination. (2014 Guardian)
Schmidt, M. (2013) Untitled. Photograph. At: https://www.lensculture.com/prix-pictet?modal=project-18992 . Accessed 22.1.17
O’Hagan, S. (2014) Michael Schmidt Obituary. At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/28/michael-schmidt. Accessed 22.1.17