»What fails is our apprehension of our incredible amasing and beautiful world.« is the statement of Joel Sternfeld that resonates most within me. First of all I have to say that I am trying to understand which message Joel Sternfeld wants to tell the readers of his photographs, books and the listeners of his lectures. I am not quite shure that I have got »it«. What makes me unsecure is a photograph I did not like at a first sight and that I did not read careful enough. The icing on the cake is as small as a stamp in this large-format photograph: A baby that suckles at the breast of his mother who is sitting on a couch that was taken out of a moving van in front of a new building somewhere at the city limits close to the woods. Someone else pointed to this culmination of this photographic short story I did not apprehend. So I have to say that it may be true that I am a very well trained to read situations and relationships what is essential to do my work as a facilitator, but I have to educate my perception of pictures and photographs.
What I have percieved in the current exhibition of Sternfeld´s work in the Museum Folkwang and whithin a lecture he held on July, 16th 2011 and a short conversation is that Joel Sternfeld is a »concerned photographer« – the Süddeutsche Zeitung called him to be one –. What is he concerned about? Money? Fame? – No, not at all!
It appears to me that Joel Sternfeld is a very self-efficiating contemporary, a humorous and amicable storyteller. He is concerned about doing great work, getting on a higer level of perception, telling something well-founded about our world and our society wanting to improve it, saving our incredible amasing and beautiful world from unpleasant acts mankind could and does do. He tells us »what we do with the surface of the earth tells us who we are« in this video, but he is not at all a itinerant preacher. He is not at the frontline either like a war photographer risking his live in order to shock and push us. Sternfeld is looking for subtle undertones that touch our souls and Sternfeld is creating photographs we want to look at more than one time, those that do not disgust but pull us in.
Joel Sternfeld is concerned about relationships of humans to each other, humans to nature and colors to each other. His eyes light up when speaking about color shades in his photographs. Yes, he is concerned not only about the story in the photograph and the story behind the photograph but also about the composition and the color. Some of Joel Sternfeld´s photographs are shown online by Luhring Augustine.
Museum Folkwang exibits different series of photographs Sternfeld created starting from 1970 till nowadays. Very much I do recomend to visit the exhibition in Essen, Germany till Oct., 23rd 2011, then touring to Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna.
And: look carefully. – Thank you, Joel for your teaching!