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Aperture 2003-02: ALL FALL DOWN, Photographs by THOMAS KELLNER

Thomas Kellner: Eiffel tower in: Aperture 2003-02

In 1997 I did a photo-project about the German border, using a pinhole camera. I had been thinking about doing a panorama of the country’s entire border for many years, but couldn’t figure out how to do it. Finally I came up with a solution: split it up into single situations. I fabricated special cameras that would photograph with eleven pinholes on one negative.

Later, visiting Paris, I decided to photograph the Eiffel Tower. I had studied and admired the work of French painter Robert Delaunay, and knew his images of the Eiffel Tower. Although I wanted very much to work with the pinhole camera, I found it impractical to negotiate the huge contraption in the city.  So I decided to use a whole roll of film and mount it as a single contact-print. I couldn’t visualize how the intervening black lines would affect the picture. So I started with a complete series of Eiffel Towers, using a variety of concepts for the final image.

The result was a wonderful shock.

Everyone has a picture in mind of the Eiffel Tower; here, the image in front of you confronts and challenges the icon in your mind.

Often, when people see my images published, they imagine them as giant enlargements. But of course they’re not, they are contact prints, and the size is only a question of how much film I use. I arrive at the defined size through my process. The bigger the image gets (that is, the more film I use), the more the building itself disappears; the more you begin to see the picture itself rather than an image of something.

I have gone on to photograph other icons of our culture that we all know well. A year after New York’s World Trade Center was attacked, I am still thinking about the parallels that my pictures have with that tragedy. These buildings, like the Twin Towers, have become metaphors for a culture in fragments.

Kellner, T., 2003. All to pieces. Fragmented Monuments by Thomas Kellner. In: Aperture, No. 170 / spring  2003, pp. 32-37.

>>> left page: Tower Bridge London, 2001

>>> right page: Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1997