A half-visible cup of coffee is nearly full. A few drips of coffee on the lip of the cup give the impression of someone having already taken a sip. It is positioned on a dark wooden table in the center of a pool of liquid. The liquid is clear, allowing the patina of the wooden table to show through and reflecting the light therein. Is it water? Was there a glass or a bottle spilled? Accidentally or intentionally? These two components in Barbara Probst’s Exposure # 140 would be perplexing enough by themselves. But our eye continues to wander, toward something that looks like part of a person’s arm resting heavily on the edge of the table. And once again, a cascade of questions is unleashed in the viewer: Who does the arm belong to? Where is the person? What are they doing here? What role do they play in this photograph and how are they connected to the coffee cup and the spilled liquid?
The scene described could pass as a classic still life if it were not the subject of a triptych whose three images all revolve around a specific moment in the scene, featuring it from various angles. Barbara Probst uses a radio-controlled mechanism to create her Exposures, which allows the artist to simultaneously release the camera shutters from a distance. By this means a series of images is generated which breaks up the supposed reality of the moment into several views.
Individual elements are therefore repeated in the pictures, including for instance the part of the arm, the coffee cup, or the glass bottle with the yellow liquid. The different point of views give rise to new details that capture the same as well as new protagonists. In Exposure # 140, there is suddenly a green pepper on the table, or white ceramic shards; a camera appears in the photo, or a red armchair positioned in front of a dark gray wall. The table remains the center point of this work. The individual images are so disparate, but bound together by the moment of the shutter release, continually asking the viewer where the camera was positioned, how the individual elements of the images are interconnected and what they tell us. The more details we can discover, the better we understand the interconnections, possibly allowing us to even imagine the space in its three-dimensionality.
“My work is about seeing and observing, about our perception—about how we see the world and how differently we perceive,” explains Barbara Probst. Human vision can only take in one perspective, one position, or one viewpoint at a time, and ultimately only captures a single image framing. Everything else happening around us remains hidden to us. With the Exposures we leave this constricted perspective behind, thus expanding our way of seeing. With her approach to photography, Barbara Probst calls into question not only how we view the world but also photography’s supposed claim to depict reality and how we relate to it.
The most recent still lifes, shown for the first time in this exhibition, are intricately staged. The individual cameras are positioned precisely and the framing of the images is calculated. The question is, in what context the moment of exposure is embedded. A breakfast scene, an accident or a violant act ? What happened before and after the moment of exposure. As with all her Exposures, it is up to the viewer to discover these connections, also in the works # 138, # 139, # 140 presented here.
Barbara Probst was born in Munich in 1964 and lives in New York and Munich. Her work has been shown internationally in numerous major exhibitions. In 2018 she took part in the Triennial of Photography Hamburg and the Photo Biennale in Beijing, her work was on view at the Darmstädter Tage der Photographie, and she had a solo presentation at Galerie Kuckei + Kuckei at Paris Photo and Art Unlimited Basel. We are especially looking forward to her survey show at LE BAL in Paris opening in May 2019. In addition, her Exposures will be on view this year at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and as part of the DZ Bank art collection in Frankfurt. Her works are represented in many international collections, including the Whitney Museum of Art, MoMA, Centre Pompidou, LACMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Pinakothek der Moderne, Lenbachhaus Munich, or Museum Folkwang.