Images of Myanmar
Between 85th and 86th Street, Mandalay
Hans-Christian Schink is one of Germany’s major contemporary photographers. His travels have taken him around the world several times including, on four occasions in the past three years, to Myanmar. In June 2016, at the Goethe Villa in Yangon, H.C. Schink presented the results of his intense immersion in the country and its culture.
Anauk Pwasaw, Bagan
In spite of the monumental tree centre stage in the viewer’s gaze, Schink’s photographs feel generous in their composition and reveal a spacious aesthetic. Large format photographs have been Schink’s hallmark since 1988 and with them a richness of detail almost beyond what even the human eye can comprehend. He thus leaves the “final decision” to reality itself as to how it wishes to be interpreted.
Ayeyarwaddy Bank, Nyaungdon
Are Schink’s works documentation or fiction? Is he perhaps creating in his sober, light-filled microcosms a reality elusive to the human eye? His multi-layered work reveals to the gaze an unfamiliar perspective that neither cosies up to reality by attempting in vain to imitate truth, nor distorts what is visible.
Bo Gyoke Road/ Pansodan Street, Yangon
The weight-bearing pillar of Pansodan Street Bridge with the green pushed back into the background, is reminiscent of Schink’s breakthrough series, “Traffic Projects German Unity.” For over eight years, bridges, pontoons and load-bearing pillars became the main theme of a photographic first that exuded a people-free anonymity. With architectural precision, H.C. Schink dismembers the objects in front of his lens and dissects without pathos the “chinks in civilization in today’s understanding of nature”.
Chauk Htat Kyi Paya, Yangon
Time plays a dominant role in Schink’s pictures and lends the subjects, here the Reclining Buddha in Yangon, a spiritual aura that goes far beyond the religious. Behind this lies the knowledge that the “decisive moment, that is to say the taking of a picture need not be synonymous with the camera’s shutter-release.” The picture becomes the result of a process that strives to distil the essence of what is visible.
Dama Lin Khar Ra Paya, Bago
In the crumbling Dama Lin Khar Ra Pagoda in Bago, the self-given brief of the photographer becomes apparent. The interior of the monastery is not to be described by the camera lens, but the camera performs rather an act of reconnaissance. Important within this are the ambience, the time of day, the weather, light and shadow; elements that are detached from the influence of the photographer and which may demand hours of silent observing for a single shutter release.
Hsin Byu Shin, Bagan
Schink embarks on an existential quest for meaning with his demand for authenticity and photographic philosophy that clearly sets him apart from the digital flood of pictures. His choice of an analogue, fastidious means of expression further underlines this intent. What immediately draws the gaze is precisely what is not visible in the picture; that the photo is completely devoid of people is not the only reason for its anonymity. The dominant building portrayed front-on is totally interchangeable, it could be found anywhere. It is precisely this lack of pin-pointing of place, character or reason that intensifies the element of mystery in Schink’s pictures.
Kyee Myin Daing, Yangon
The western ferry harbour on the banks of the Yangon River shows – a rare exception in Schink’s concept – people going about their daily lives. They disappear as bright daubs into the bellies of ships, their individual paths and purpose subordinated to the composition of the whole. And yet they stick out of Schink’s own monochrome scheme and stand markedly apart from the usual pastel tones of his pictures. Schink’s large format photographs do not, however, in spite of their intricacy, lose themselves in detail, but rather live from it and it is that very detail that imbues them with their complex message.
Mya Thar Lyaung, Bago
Schink does not at all fall into the trap of his own concept, and in reference to his quest says: “I could capture the light of the sun without it being instantly recognisable as such. I could depict the passing of time without that being immediately apparent in the photo. These pictures show their own reality, one perceivable only through the classical tools of photography, and this in turn touches on one of the central questions of the medium, namely whether reality can be portrayed.”
Win Sein Taw Ya, Mudon
Schink works neither as a tourist, who photographs every speck of dust along the way, nor as a clinically precise technician as one might sometimes assume from the coolness of his concept. Instead he decides on themes and places that seem to augur success and it is only once there that he select concrete motifs. Herein lies, for all the striving for authenticity in the picture’s concept, the greatest subjective intervention: the choice of the portion to be photographed. Even in its purest form, photography can only be an approximation of reality or, as H.C. Schink would say, a new look at something long familiar. The apparent strictness of the pictures is revealed as a sensitivity to nature, which in Schink’s understanding of art, always has the last word.