Adam Baer’s photography
constitutes the most radical exploration to date of the expressive
possibilities of the nineteenth century view camera. The grand paradox
and achievement of Baer’s work is that he has found strategies
to naturalize the view camera as the archetypal postmodern instrument;
to subvert its history of pre-industrial, pre-digital, pre-Internet
description as a means to comment on bourgeois society and contemporary
visual theory without actually using the electronic digital technologies
which dominate our age.
Though at first you will find it hard to believe, what you are looking
at is an images made from a perfectly straight, single exposure,
non montaged, non-photoshoped, shot in the real world without manipulation
or double printing.
To achieve these images Baer builds elaborate sets that are made
to be viewed from only one precise point in space, a point where
he places his view camera, and then adjusting swings and tilts,
threads the plane of sharp focus slantwise out into the world. By
placing the interstices of divergent objects off the plane of focus
Baer is able to seamlessly join discontinuous elements, unifying
in a single image a fractured, chaotic, incoherent reality. The
coherence in Adam Baer’s world is achieved by spatial juxtapositions
tied together by photographic continuity.
Baer’s world is deeply tied to photography’s long history
of using the set and the painted backdrop which in a single exposure
effectively conflates photography’s authenticity and painterly
illusion. Baer’s work extends this tradition. His painted
sets allow him to reconstruct, catalog and accumulate, to tie his
vision simultaneously to Renaissance perspective and to the new
world of media and virtual reality.
world is made up of toxic landscapes viewed through the doors and
windows of surreal or chaotic urban interiors. The iconography of
these landscape is drawn from Hiroshima, Chernobyl and the toxic
red seas of the Ukraine. Baer’s tragic yet very witty take
on human affairs utilizes the view camera’s mechanism to implicate
technology in chaos and despair.
Baer’s straight 19th century technology shows us a world of
fast cuts, quick dissolves across space and time, juxtapositions,
collage, pastiche, movable frames, impossible perspectives, real-time
processing, and image manipulation. This is the world of Photoshop
and After Effects. In short, this is the paradigmatic world of MTV.
But Baer’s urban visions are powerful and persuasive precisely
because they are straight images. Though his photographs may have
the look of Photoshop, Baer’s refusal to utilize Photoshop
is essential to the meaning of his work. Baer is committed to the
heft and presence of the physical world, to physical embodiment.
Photoshop merely simulates the rendition of photography and differentiates
the photorealistic from the photographic.