Power of photography: Andreas Gursky opens the Hayward Gallery
Books & Exhibitions
Andreas Gursky has been instrumental in helping to evolve the vocabulary of photography. From his raw early work in the 1980s through to his staged and cinematic current creations – his fictional photography as he calls it – the German photographer asks us to engage with our time and reflect on contemporary social landscapes. It is therefore fitting for Gursky to headline the Hayward Gallery’s 50th anniversary in its completely refurbished brutalist home at the Southbank Centre in London.
This is the first exhibition to take place here following the two-year re-design and restorative programme that included the replacement of 66 pyramid roof lights so now natural light floods the formally dark top floor of the gallery. The power of photography is truly evident here as Gursky’s huge and often spectacular images line the exhibition rooms at the Hayward, adding colour to the quiet, soft concrete structure. His work fits so perfectly in one of London’s most celebrated brutalist buildings and the surrounding area by the river Thames which remains so engaged with the urban fabric that surrounds it.
Gursky says, ‘I only pursue one goal: the encyclopaedia of life.’ The retrospective features 68 of his most ground-breaking photographs, including eight new works. Often employing a bird’s-eye perspective, these large pictures capture every little detail with incredible precision. From the frenzied stock exchange seen in Chicago Board of Trade III (2009) to the vast distribution centre shown in Amazon (2016), and from the sea of candy-coloured budget items featured in of 99 Cent II, (2001) to the eerily empty display shelves in Prada II (1997) – these images are a visual record of our time.
Gursky’s more recent work plays with the idea of fictional photography to question our faith in the factual veracity of images. The photographs are heavily staged and manipulated through computer-aided post-production techniques to have a scale, a precision, composition and complexity that is unprecedented. They expand the possibilities of the medium. To quote Gursky, today ‘reality can only be shown by constructing it’.
Andreas Gursky is at the Hayward Gallery until 22 April 2018