THEMATIC: Art and Documentary Photographs


"Untitled," 2007. C-print, 91 x 72 2/5 inches. © Florian Maier-Aichen. Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles and 303 Gallery, New York.

Do photographs always reflect reality or truth? Florian Maier-Aichen takes photographs that are considered realistic, but he alters the images to present new, painterly representations of the natural landscape. In his Art21 segment, Maier-Aichen discusses changing a "straight" photograph by adding "imperfections." View Florian Maier-Aichen's film and discuss how the artist transforms his images.

Compare the way Maier-Aichen alters his photographs, and explores the line between art image and documentary photography, to the strategies of other artists, including: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman, Collier Schorr, and Robert Adams.


SEGMENT: Florian Maier-Aichen in "Fantasy"

Before Viewing
Consider the relationship between documentary photography and art photography. Do photographs always reflect reality or truth? Can a photograph be fictional? Discuss these questions, using examples of photographs from the news, art history, and popular culture.

While Viewing
Pause the film on one photograph, and discuss how the image conveys Maier-Aichen's interest in transforming a photograph back to an "unfinished" state. In what ways does the work reflect a more ambiguous and less conclusive approach? How does the image inspire your own interpretations of it?

After Viewing
Maier-Aichen takes photographs of painted maps. He describes them as being very imprecise images—that just give you an idea of a place and leave the rest to your imagination. How do these images relate to the other photographs he creates?


"Untitled (towards Burbank)," 2004. Silver gelatin print, 22 1/2 x 27 inches. © Florian Maier-Aichen. Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles and 303 Gallery, New York.

Create
Consider how the methods of photography and topography represent place and location. Research photographs of a location in your neighborhood (or take your own photos) and find a map of that same location. Combine the two types of images, to create a work of art that simultaneously represents and abstracts that place.