Portraits. Belonging to the generation of photographers who honed their skills in the darkroom, Bitesnich is still very much a master of the perfect print.
Since the appearance of his classic book NUDES in 1998, Andreas H. Bitesnich has firmly established himself (through further works such as ‘On Form‘ and ‘More Nudes’), as Europe’s foremost photographer of the male and female form. Even a quick glance at his career shows, however, that Bitesnich is not content mastering a single genre, and is now as well-known and respected for his unique approach to travel and street photography, seen through his ‘Deeper Shades’ city series, and, most obviously through his seminal work ‘India’.
Anyone who has visited one of his major museum exhibitions, will also be aware of his lesser-known, but equally as impressive, portraits. Shot either as commissions for magazines or as private assignments, the first thing that strikes you is their simplicity. Here Bitesnich has borrowed from his own approach to his nude photography. The backgrounds are almost invariably black, white or grey, the images themselves either black and white, or practically monochromatic colour. Bitesnich strips away all distractions – even the clothing is seemingly chosen for its timelessness or ability to dissolve into the background.
One other major unifying element is the proximity of the photographer to his subject. From Bitesnich’s earliest portrait, of Anthony Quinn in 1991, to the more recent portraits such as those of Philip Glass or Wim Wenders, there is this seamless connection. Bitesnich is not afraid, even with such a daunting challenge as Sir Christopher Lee, to get intimately close. Despite this emphasis on simplicity and reduction, Bitesnich’s own personality is as evident in the images as that of the subject. Through his minimalistic use of props, or spontaneous direction, his Viennese sense humour shines through. As well as such obvious literal references in the portraits of Philip Glass and Kurtis Blow, there are more subtle twists. For example, in the way that, Jane Goodall poses for a tongue-in-cheek triptych, or mountaineering hero Reinhold Messner is transformed into a formidable giant. This is not to say that his subjects are treated light-heartedly. Far from it. Bitesnich’s approach is sensitive and respectful, and one senses the full cooperation of all his subjects, and the feeling that his own influence is working on an almost subconscious level.
Bitesnich has not yet published a book of his portraits. Perhaps the reason for this is that, despite the fact many of these images have featured in magazines, they are best experienced as large format photographic prints. Belonging to the generation of photographers who honed their skills in the darkroom, Bitesnich is still very much a master of the perfect print. The superb technical quality of his images is perhaps the necessary final element, and the one which results in some of the most striking contemporary portraits.
Image: Andreas H. Bitesnich
Opening: Tue 8 September hr. 19
Levstikov trg 7