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Andreas Gursky and the Encyclopedia of Life

“The first time I saw photographs by Andreas
Gursky…I had the disorienting sensation that something was
happening—happening to me, I suppose, although it felt more generalized than
that”. That’s what critic Calvin Tomkins wrote in The New Yorker magazine about
modern time master of photography Andreas Gursky. His astonishing works earned
the respect and admiration of the art world, and, quite frankly, also earned a
lot of money for their creator.

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Typical Gursky’s work is a large scale photograph,
sometimes digitally remastered, that depicts massive structures or patterns. Despite
the fact that they usually capture buildings, industrial and urban spaces, any
areas with large concentrations of people or goods that often make you feel
small, Andreas Gursky captures human structures, the patterns of our lives.
Just like in his work Paris, Montparnasse. 

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Here author took two photos of the famous area, that once used to be an inspiring place for avant-garde artists and writers, and he combined images together to form an illusion of endless building. The flats look like cells in
the huge structured organism. This type of buildings had been built in the post war period
with the rise of consumer culture and industrial progress, so what we are
looking at is actually a photograph of our modern society, the encyclopedia of
life. 

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We can sink into the details of the photo. And this “sinking” quality is
relevant to all of his photos. There is not only the large scale that makes the
viewers gasp in front of the enormous images. It is the hyperbolism, special point
of view, and perfectly captured patters. Weather it is a product shelf, church
windows, or some objects of nature.

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 People are not the main characters of his oeuvre.
He tries to capture not just one separate individual, but the product of
individuals that came together – the society, whether metaphorically speaking
or not. 

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The society-made structures, decisions, interactions, interventions –
Gursky’s photos capture all of these things and even more. He is direct, but leaves
much to our evaluation. How else can you transmit an outlook on nowadays world
without being too documental, or too abstract, or any other “too”? It is a
fine, yet thin line that lies between the subjectivization of a matter and giving
a “clear” picture with no particular prejudices to the viewer to study and draw
their own conclusions. And this line, this distance is really hard to keep and
maintain. Andreas Gursky does it with a perfect elegance and distinguished
artistic manner. His photos are so valuable because of the knowledge within them,
the knowledge of people, of society, of the world we share with each other
every day. It is about the encounter with the public area of our social space. It is about unity, and about the
relations within it. It is about us and what we do as a human kind.

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