About the Photographer
German, b. 1960
Vera Lutter uses the most elemental means of photography to render the world she depicts – and photography itself – unfamiliar and new. The tool is the camera obscura (literally, "dark room"), the optical principle of which holds when light passes through a small aperture into a darkened chamber and an inverted image will appear on the wall opposite the hole. Lutter hangs black-and-white photographic paper on the wall to capture the image. The resulting pictures are one-of-a-kind paper negatives. As such, the tones on the paper are reversed – the daytime sky appears black, dark buildings appear white – and the image itself is inverted and upside-down (although Lutter displays the pictures oriented with sky at top). Because of the small aperture necessary to keep the image in focus, her exposures are necessarily long, from an hour or two to several days or even weeks.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography commissioned Lutter in 2001 to turn rooms in Chicago office buildings into camera obscuras and photograph Chicago's downtown. Chicago's buildings have long been photographed – this vertical city on the prairie, with its blocks of abstract grids, has held great attractions for the camera – and Lutter's pictures, with their sweeping verticals and repeated rectangles, play up these aspects. The Chicago photographs show the presence of old and new buildings, compressed into a grid of overlapping planes.
Chicago looks strange, and so does photography itself. Positive becomes negative, objects in motion disappear, and the scale of the print is much larger than the usual photograph, but has not been enlarged. In these images, we are made to realize that the techniques of photography are in no way hinged to its assumed visual conventions, and this realization should carry over to our viewing of the other pictures all around us.
— adapted from an essay by Liz Siegel
Vera Lutter studied art at the Munich Academy (Degree 1990) and photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she currently resides. Her photographs have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Dia Foundation, New York; Kunsthalle, Basel; and Museum of the City of New York. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. Lutter has also received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2001).
Eskin, Blake. On the Roof: Pepsi Degeneration. the New Yorker (March 29,2004), p. 40
Hetzler, Max. Vera Lutte. ARTnews (June 2002), p.131.
Wollen, Peter. Vera Lutter interview. Bomb (Fall 2003), p.46-53.