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.

Baer’s 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.

Ironically 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.


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