Paul Kranzler’s “Tom”

I’ve seen a lot of books and shows this year, but there’s one that’s really stuck with me. Paul Kranzler’s “Tom” (fotohof) is an amazing piece of work and here’s why:

* It’s a photo project that tells a story. Most projects I see begin as methods of visual categorization and just stop there. Kranzler takes the time to find, develop, follow and edit the story; correspondingly, the book ends when the story ends.

* Kranzler is a photographer who knows as much about “streetish” timing as he does about a still-life or landscape. The more photographs I see, the more I’m beginning to admire the professional generalists, rather than the narrow specialists – the photographers who can take a picture of anything; portraits, a busted-up house, a moment in motion, and make it work.

* Kranzler’s wide-eyed. You can sense, from his photographs, that the whole world is visually interesting to him, and as a photographer, he has the skill to translate this visual excitement into solid pictures, regardless of the subject or setting.

* “Tom” shows what can happen when a photographer is dedicated and works with his subjects to create more than just access. The photos range from set-ups in which it’s clear that his subjects are looking at the camera and are waiting to be photographed, to spontaneous pictures in which the photographer has completely disappeared and we’re left with nothing but a remarkable view. By staying with medium-format, Kranzel allows himself the quickness of the snapshot and the long look of large format.

(Disclosure: I collaborated on writing and editing catalog copy for the US distributor of “Tom”, pasted below.)

“Young Austrian photographer Paul Kranzler’s latest book project Tom is his second excruciatingly intimate journey inside the life of his subjects. A riveting study of adolescence, family, and a farm community in rural Austria, Tom is photo-reportage firmly in the style of Larry Clark and Paul Graham. Whether it’s a picture of Dad sucking on a baby’s bottle in front of a long strip of flypaper, or a more formal portrait of Tom’s Turkish friends leaning on their car, Kranzler’s pictures enter that rare space for photography: the place where as much is revealed as concealed.

Kranzler’s photographs are mysterious facts. While his strobe sometimes freezes Tom and his family in moments of banality, the project’s warmth is expressed through softer, available light portraits and occasional landscapes. While focusing on the human drama of the family, Kranzler’s wise to observe the inanimate reality of house and home. Laundry’s on the floor. Cigarettes are on the table.

Documentary to the end, and two years in the making, Kranzler looks, lingers, and allows his camera to capture this story’s essential views. Edited into a narrative, cross-cut with humor and sub-plots, Tom is an essential book that confirms the promise Kranzler suggested in Land of Milk and Honey. With an essay by Markus Binder from the band Attwenger.”

Kranzler’s site
Web version of “Tom” book, with pdf of opening pages

One thought on “Paul Kranzler’s “Tom””

  1. Nice review Michael. I really like your idea of the “professional generalists” who are interested in the whole visual world.

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