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A Window to the World

A Window to the World

WINDOWS IN PHOTOGRAPHIC ART


The view through a window creates a relationship between the observer and the observed. Using the window as a motif in photography adds an additional perspective: that of the artist. An artist uses the window as an instrument to convey a message. The annual Trierenberg Super Circuit, the world's largest photographic art competition, shows just how fascinating and complex these metaphors can be. Using a selection of this year's entries on the topic of "A window to the world", we hope to highlight certain aspects of the window as a metaphor.


Dr Chris Hinterobermaier, Managing Director of the Trierenberg Super Circuit, was enchanted by this topic and the quality of work submitted: "Photographers from 110 countries submitted their work and approached the "window" theme in a very unique, innovative and sensitive way. It was exciting to see the ideas and creative potential this theme has inspired. The bottom line is that clearly a window is required to perceive the world without filters, openly and creatively."

A portal to (another) world

A portal to (another) world

Photography as a reflection on spatial reality usually presents the window in a spatial/architectural context. There are two different approaches to interacting with the window in photography: the window as a symbol and the window as a motif.


As a symbol, a window marks a portal or virtual boundary. Scholar and historian Rolf Selbmann refers in his book "Eine Kulturgeschichte des Fensters" (A cultural history of the window) to a certain level of "suction" that emphasises or warps the difference between inside and outside. This is illustrated by the image entitled "Geometry" by Viktor Kannunikov (Russia). The tilted glass surfaces in the otherwise forbidding, coolly reflective glass façade allows something from the sealed interior out into the outside world. The warm, orange tones that become visible further emphasise this effect.

The image of the portal is also not limited solely to the existing world. Since their creation, windows have also served to separate the secular world from the religious world — for example in early temples. The custom of opening a window in the event of illness or death follows the same logic. The image entitled "Light my life" by The Eng Loe Djatinegoro (Indonesia) takes advantage of this symbolism. The little monk is not praying before the statue of Buddha, but has instead turned towards the light entering through an opening in the wall.   

Outlook: from desire to curiosity

Outlook: from desire to curiosity

The view from the inside looking out was often used to symbolise desire, particularly in Romantic-era paintings such as in Caspar David Friedrich's "Woman at a window". As such, this idea has been revisited and varied over the various eras. Virtually all of the images have one thing in common: They generally show the person looking out of the window from behind. Their face—and therefore their emotions—remain hidden to the viewer of the image. The person at the window becomes a canvas on which to project one's own desires.


The photo entitled "Early morning" by Jorgen Skaug (Norway) is different. Due to the perspective of the composition, the viewer is able to see the face of the old woman. She seems to be taking a moment to rest before her daily chores. She is distracted by something happening outside of the window. We do not know whether or not she will give into her impulse and go outside, but it is within the realm of possibility. Desire has therefore become curiosity.

Insight: a (secret) shop window

Insight: a (secret) shop window

The view through a window from the outside always has an (un)intentional representative component. Politicians or royalty who are shown in a window also use this effect just like a shop window is used to present goods. If the visual intrusion by the public into a private space occurs in secret, it will have a voyeuristic component. This effect can be further strengthened by the window frame that surrounds and focus the scene.

Zhou Jianyong (China) uses the window frame to pin down his motif in his image entitled "Outside the window". The width of the rubber lip immediately makes it clear that the window in question is a train window. The view of the girl's face becomes a fleeting moment. The scratched windowpane underlines the separation between the inside and the outside. The viewer really feels as though they are outside.

Reflection: the multi-dimensional image

Reflection: the multi-dimensional image

 

As an imaging process, photography does not just use the window as a symbol, but also as an object, thus benefitting from the optical properties of the window. An example is the fact that glass is reflective depending on the sunlight and strength of the lighting. This allows different levels to be connected in a single image.

In the image entitled "Nova Scena" by Gabriele Steiner, completely different dimensions meet in real time: modern and classical architecture, surfaces and space, interior and exterior. The matching horizontal arrangement of both buildings reinforces the overlay. The eye-shaped sculpture and the display at the base of the building become symbols of the act of viewing the image that has been initiated.