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Torsten Hattenkerl’s “Autoportraits”

Torsten Hattenkerl has just released a new book called “Autoportraits”, from Fotohof. It’s one of those rare, successful combinations of street & conceptual photography. The photographs may be posed, but they’re taken on the street, and while they’re stationary, they have the feel of a chance, brief (and perhaps illicit) encounter.

Plus, as a categorization of something/someone who’s still, rather than in passing, they accrue a formal power in their aggregate. Torsten doesn’t have a site up, and I haven’t found a place (online) where the book is purchasable in the US, yet, but it’s available in the UK. RamPub is the US distributor, and I wrote some text about Autoportraits for their catalog, which I’ve copied below.

Dörmbach (by whileseated)
from Torsten Hattenkerl’s “Autoportraits”

Silke (by Torsten Hattenkerl)
from Torsten Hattenkerl’s “Autoportraits”

Andi (by Torsten Hattenkerl)
from Torsten Hattenkerl’s “Autoportraits”

In a world of camera ubiquity and digital overload, Torsten Hattenkerl’s Autoportraits are a refreshing step forward for the European photographic tradition. A future of portraits. People in poses. Eschewing the exactitude of the current European affinity for large-format detail, Hattenkel’s portraits of car owners (with the object of their affection) have a warm familiarity while they propose a larger statement about a nation of one.

These 37 color plates of people standing in front of their cars are as modern as they are retro, while Hattenkerl’s subjects are as brilliantly individual as they are terrifyingly uniform. The pictures ask “Who are we?” while answering “Who are we without our cars?”

Seventy years after August Sander, the traffic of everyday life has moved off of the sidewalk and onto freeways, while the world of advertisements urges us to believe we’re nothing without our vehicle(s). Hattenkerl’s trained his sharp eye on the confluence of culture and cars while executing a brilliantly simple concept. If we are no one without our cars – who exactly are we?

MDM, for RamPub

Full disclosure, I helped edit the book’s opening essay, as well. And for you gearheads, Hattenkerl made the photographs with a regular old 35mm camera and Kodak 400NC film, which proves if you have a good idea, pursue it, shoot it, and get it out there, regardless of whether or not you have the perfect camera.

Tag: Reviews