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Conserving

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Product SKU: CON | Manufacturer Name : Edition Reuss

Daniel and Geo Fuchs have traveled around the world to photograph specimens of humans, animals, and fishes conserved in the collections of museums of natural history. The majority of these specimens have never before been on public display.

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Photography
Daniel + Geo Fuchs
Dimensions
24,5 x 31,5 cm
Notes
hardcover, thread bound six-color dust jacket
Pages
240
Photographs
180 color photographs
Texts in
G, E, F, I
ISBN
978-3-934020-01-6
Product Availability: on stock
Sales price 19,90 €
Sales price without tax 18,09 €
  • Description

Photography: Daniel + Geo Fuchs

Life and death are the themes which
have always exerted an incredible fascination on human beings. The trilogy entitled “Conserving” — which includes “Conserving Fish,” “Conserving Animals” and “Conserving Humans” — is a sensitive confrontation with a part of our life that is frequently repressed or tabooed.

Daniel and Geo Fuchs pursue exiting new paths in this photographic work. Their virtuosic use of lighting enables them to breathe new life into specimens, some of which have been conserved in alcohol or formaldehyde for as much as 300 years.

The appeal of their photographs derives from the breathtaking beauty of the colors and structures and from a magical expressiveness which invites the viewer to enter hitherto unknown worlds. The images, which recall the enigmatic paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, simultaneously become icons and venerable, reverential objects.

For the first time ever, these artistic photographs depict specimens from natural history museums and anatomical collections, many of which have never before been on public display.

Daniel and Geo Fuchs rank among the newly discovered stars in the world of contemporary photography. In recent years, they have won international accolades for their projects and exhibitions. The photos in their “Conserving” trilogy are scheduled to be shown at numerous international exhibitions.

The book of photographs entitled “Conserving” was printed in uniquely high quality, using the new, six-color “hexachrome” color-printing process. The photos are especially impressive thanks to the unprecedented brillance of the colors and the extreme depth of field, which conveys a startingly three-dimensional impression.

Aesthetic design and top-quality craftsmanship make this large-format art-photo volume into a visual masterpiece. In “Conserving,” the internationally famed photographers Daniel and Geo Fuchs have successfully translated a fascinating theme into a major document in the field of contemporary photography.

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Press comments and reviews

The results of this fantastic journey into the realm of the dead are timelessly beautiful pictures recall the works of the Old Master painters and reveal to us the wonder of life itself. (MAX, Germany)
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The resultant photos have such brilliance, luminosity and expressive power that that seem to breathe new life into the preserved specimens, some of which are as much as 300 years old… Just one year after the publication of their photos, Daniel and Geo Fuchs had already begun to enjoy tremendous success throughout Europe and in North America. (COLOR FOTO, Deutchland)
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Death behind glass acquires a fascinating beauty. (STERN, Germany)
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The specimen survived in its glass container since 1750, wholly undamaged but also entirely overlooked by the general public. Not until artists Geo and Daniel Fuchs discovered the little corpse, photographed it and presented its photo at international art exhibitions did the specimen become visible to millions of people. (FOCUS, Germany)
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The gorgeous wonder of life after death. The photos are simultaneously eerie and fascinating. (Die Welt, Germany)
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And even though, in the 1980s, photographers such as Joel-Peter Witkin, Rudolf Schäfer and most recently Andres Serrano had already turned their attention to the fascination of death, there’s still something entirely different in the work of Daniel & Geo Fuchs. Not solely because their work is considerably more comprehensive. Irregardless of whether their subjects are animals or human beings, they create a certain aesthetic precisely because they make no changes in the specimens, neither before, during nor after the photo shooting. They preserve the attitude of respect for the individual and for death itself. (PHOTO TECHNIK INTERNATIONAL, Germany)
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Their photos are like paintings. The lighting makes the objects seem to glow and float. (BERLINER ZEITUNG, Germany)
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Everywhere they went, they were cordially received by conserved death, a chemically preserved menagerie kept within transparent glass coffins. These photos are shocking precisely because they’re so very good. (SPIEGEL KULTUR, Germany)
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Even though everything that we’re seeing is already dead, the two authors seem to fly in the face of this undeniable fact and, through the intuitive correctness with which they illuminate their subjects, they make the specimens seem to come alive again… And it is also this remarkable, almost magical lighting that makes these photos worth looking at…It makes sense not only to look at the book, but also to view the exhibition. Whereas the book gives its reader the opportunity to be drawn under the spell of this fantastic journey time and time again, the original photos in the exhibition have a presence which is simultaneously impressive and impossible to overlook. (PHOTONEWS, Germany)
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The aesthetic design and elaborate processing make this large-format art-photo book into a visual masterpiece. (STYLE, Germany)
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In a bizarre way, these photos are an homage to the beauty and the miracle of life. A visual masterpiece. (LEICA FOTOGRAFIE, Germany)
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The poetry of the ephemeral, captured in imagery. Daniel and Geo Fuchs have devoted themselves to a sensitive encounter between life and death. Ever since this lavishly illustrated volume was published by Munich’s Edition Reuss this spring, the two photographers have been jetting halfway around the world to show parts of their “Conserving” project at exhibitions. (BASELER ZEITUNG, Schweiz)
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Something peaceful emanates from these photos. Sometimes even an extreme tenderness. And then, an unspeakable morbidity. (LE FIGARO, France)
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Fascinating glimpses of death, a frightening theme about which people usually prefer not to speak. And yet: the shock is lacking. The photos are so aesthetic; and even after hundreds of years, the perfectly preserved human bodies seem so peaceful. They’ve lost nothing of their dignity. (HAMBURGER MORGENPOST, Germany)
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A cult of the dead in formaldehyde: Daniel and Geo Fuchs have created breathtaking photos of people and animals…The colors are repeatedly striking. Von Hagens, with his plastic corpses, cannot achieve pastel hues like these. But this yellow and this green – they’re pure Hieronymus Bosch colors. So, it seems that messages do indeed arrive from the realm of those who have not experienced salvation. (DER TAGESSPIEGEL, Germany)
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Some corpses look so peaceful, they almost seem to be sleeping. Aesthetic photos. And yet: one cannot bear it for very long. Or one begins to think about one’s own death. (BILD, Germany)
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Even if the silvery eyes stare only with a broken gaze, the camera liberates the animal from its double captivity – in glass and in death – and manumits it into a sculptural life by making the container and the conserving fluid very nearly invisible. (TAZ, Germany)
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The results are astonishing: the photographed bodies float weightlessly, as though they were beyond time and space. (SCHWEIZER SONNTAGSZEITUNG, Schweiz)

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Foreword 1 of this book

CONSERVING – On a Cycle of Photos by Daniel and Geo Fuchs

The most successful images seem to be those in which absolute simultaneity appears like a temporal sequence that is holding its breath.
ADORNO

A red demon grins behind an invisible boundary made of glass. A dreaming, unborn child almost smiling, as though time cannot disturb the sleep of transience. A fish of prey, once, now beyond its last transparent bout. Bear paws pressed together to recapture the warmth they have lost. A girl’s face wrapped in lace, from three hundred years ago, exiled into timelessness. “And our faces, my heart, ephemeral as photos.”1

Artworks by Daniel and Geo Fuchs. Photographs. Also: pictures of specimens found in natural history collections. Fish, beast, human. Conserved fishes, animals, people. More than that: this form of artistic work becomes a documentation of a friendship between the portrayed and the portrayer. Confrontation, friction, crossing frontiers. Can death be overcome? Where does dignity begin? Where does it become the artist’s duty to violate dignity without destroying it? Daniel and Geo Fuchs were the first to accept the images. Crossing the existing wall between the fenced out and the fenced in, the artists found the images as much as the images found the artists.

A path that took many years. Anxieties, changes. Anyone venturing into darker fields, especially in natura morta, will find fragments of his own transitoriness. If human intervention can preserve natura morta from ultimate decay, is there still hope left for us? Anyone who holds a mummified hand in his own hands and lifts it into the light to be photographed mutely witnesses another dimension. Signs. That which has been rendered visible in the sense of an image leads us towards becoming aware of that which would have been lost if it had been insensitively displayed. Just as meaning can arise not by adding more ot that which is visible, but by removing some of it.

Also, of course: pictures at an exhibition. “Conserving Fish.” The photographic images on the walls. The precursors and the discovered motifs alike, the bodies of the fish displayed here on loan in protective glass containers, conserved in liquid, accurately analyzed and scientifically preserved. These specimens define the beginning of the two artists’ process of confrontation. A little girl compares, comprehends, experiences and suddenly sees. Though the fish in the glass container has been dead for a hundred years, it lives in the photograph. Where does “afterwards” begin? Before the origin? To marvel, the gift of seeing something for the first time.... The child’s eye saw with her soul.

The question of seeing. We. Observed observers. The head penetrated by light. The hand, a mere hand, and the delicate lines in the profile of an unborn face. Slumber rests profoundly in this peaceful face. There, beneath the tip of the nose, the faint green of downy fuzz. The likeness, the photo, encloses and discloses a story. Perhaps there is an insight. Nothing is fixed or certain.

There is movement in these photographs, in these “subjects” photographed with and through a dividing yet transparent wall. They recount the past even as they refigure it anew. The stories strive forwards into a future. Or better yet: time became entangled in them. Daniel and Geo Fuchs’ photos have brought time to a halt. And we, who approach them through seeing, participate in this.

According to Maurice Blanchot, the essence of an image lies in its being utterly outside, devoid of intimacy, yet more inaccessible and more puzzling than any inner notion. Meaningless and yet a challenge to the inscrutability of any possible meaning.

There is an irritating challenge in these pictures. Beyond their technical brilliance, beyond the brightness of the light or the blur of the colors of the background faded out of focus – beyond all this there is a peculiar clearness of perception: the eye of the fish with its unmistakable dimness. At first glance, it seems to be a dead eye. But then, after one’s gaze has dwelt long enough on it and, in doing so, has abstracted the object, suddenly there is movement. Not the immobility of the moment, but a stillness in the here and now. Feeling sometimes comes before knowing.

A vague presentiment may precede the presence of the eye. The riddle resists reason’s attempts to encroach upon it. Behind it lies a mystery. Is it, perhaps, our mystery? One can go and want to forget. Time, death, history. Some pictures remain because they want to remain. They’ve crept into their viewer.

These artworks have an unexpected presence. Without arrogant calculation, fully aware of the controversial nature of their theme, these artworks encounter what they portray with an attitude of awed respect. They create an atmosphere which prompts the beholder to pause and hold his breath. They breathe an aura of warming peace, respectful grace and dignity. Though they redraw the existing limits, they do so not for the sake of sensationalism, and thus they allow for evolution. Pictures can create space, can absorb their viewer and evoke associations. Nothing attacks or imposes itself if they and we remain inviolate.

There is strangeness nonetheless. Also: loneliness. Anyone who ventures beyond a boundary knows two realities. Time, death. Boundary experiences. Although the images are by no means alien to us, they remain strangers – and they remain lonely. The moment they are removed from their world of glass and left unprotected in this real, existing world, in that very moment they would begin to decompose, to decay. We know this. The pictures in the trilogy are just the opposite. Their present, enigmatic home knows no death. Death lies behind them. They have been reinvented.

JANA MARKO

1. The quotation is a translation of the German title of John Berger’s book Und unsere Gesichter, mein Herz, vergänglich wie Fotos. Published by Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich and Vienna, 1986, p.14.

 

Foreword 2 of this book

Suspended Animation: CONSERVING – Photographs by Daniel and Geo Fuchs

In their photographic works, Geo and Daniel Fuchs enter very private worlds. They are intent on approaching situations which they describe as “borderline,” situations which others might well avoid, places and things which are normally hidden from public view. They penetrate the storerooms of museums and scientific institutions, where preserved animals and even human beings are suspended in glass cases filled with formaldehyde or alcohol, and confront not only the institutional compulsion to conserve and collect, but also their own responses to these objects and what they represent. “In the early Nineties we learned of the scientific collections in which animals, fish, mammals and reptiles are conserved in alcohol. We began to think that the fish especially must somehow regain a new form of life, back in their own liquid element. When we first visited a collection at a natural history museum, we noticed that the fish still had a remarkable liveliness which fit our theme exactly: to find life in death.... For us, death and preservation are related in the sense that we see preservation as another form of continued existence. Some of the specimens are more than 300 years old.”(1)

Daniel and Geo Fuchs have entitled their project “Conserving,” a title which, of course, has a dual meaning. The objects which they photograph have themselves been conserved and preserved, but by the act of photography, they have created another layer of documentation and preservation. They have also created another arena for these normally hidden objects, taken them into the surroundings of serious art and documentary photography, where they become available to a gaze quite different from that of the scientist or the mortician. “Conserving” illustrates photography’s capability to create a new audience for subjects and ideas which have hitherto been made obscure.

In the late Eighties and early Nineties, the subject of death became of great interest to a number of European and American photographic artists. Rudolf Schäfer’s portraits of dead people (taken in an East German mortuary in 1987) attracted immediate attention, as did Andres Serrano’s powerful series taken in the morgues of New York City. English color documentarist Nick Waplington, known in the early Nineties for his raucous commentary on the lives of two families living in a Nottingham housing estate, subsequently produced a series of constructed photographs dealing with unnatural death and suicide. The reasons for this new interest in the photography of death remain unclear, perhaps too multiple to be assembled as a single coherent theory. Artists using photography certainly developed a strong interest in objets morts from the Eighties onwards and had begun to use “real life” situations in a way which reflected a highly subjective and directed view of the real world. The photography of death, as seen in the mortuary or the museum, played an important role in this new way of using photography. The dead were of our world yet outside it, available to the artist/photographer as still and silent subjects in a way which was unique and inimitable.

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