Marco Breuer’s photographic process

Marco Breuer doesn’t like to interfere with the way people see his pictures.

For instance, what do you see in the image below?

We’ll get back to what it is in a moment, but in the meantime meet Breuer, an academically trained photographer who decided a few years ago he wanted to follow his own path.

“I think that photographers tend to find the longest way to the image,” he says. “What I am after is the other end of the spectrum, the shortest way, the most direct, immediate interaction with photographic material.”

In other words, Marco Breuer usually doesn’t use a camera. He says his work really goes back to the idea of a photogram. He tends to work directly with photographic paper, stressing it, as he calls it with abrasive materials, or even a heat gun to create his images. Sometimes this is done before the paper is processed, sometimes after.

Several of Breuer’s images are on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts beginning this weekend. It’s simply called “New Pictures:2”

The images are all very different. There is the swirling image above, but there are others with intricate patterns scratched into their surface.

“I want these images to read photographically,” he says. He creates images in one way, but due to the way people tend to see photographs, they can appear to be something else.

For instance one piece looks as if it is textured like a rug, until you get close-up and see the lines are the result of pieces of fluff and other material produced by scoring the paper before processing. The image is quite flat.

“What I don’t want the images to be is kind of a check list,” he says, meaning people should not be able to readily identify certain things in the images. “There always remains a degree of openness in the whole matter.”

Breuer takes this almost to extremes. He has had a long standing rule that his own face does not appear with his work. He’s a photographer who sees problems in having his own image appear with his work. He chuckles a little when asked about it, but then explains

“From my own experience there are certain artists that I wish I didn’t know what they look like. I wish I had never seen a photograph,” he says. “I just want to experience the work. And so a while back I made the decision that for myself I would just take my likeness out of the equation. What I have to say is in the work, and there it is.”

Breuer’s process is ever-evolving however, and this is true of this show.

After the exhibit has been open for about a month, Breuer will return from his home in New York state to redecorate the gallery where his pictures are now on display. He’ll paint all the walls, which are currently creamy white, with black paint, creating a giant blackboard. He says he’ll use chalk to “join the dots,” fill in more information about the images. All of the pictures will be in the same place, but everything else in the show will have changed.

He did give me a small preview of what that might reveal.

He says the image above was created through putting photographic paper in a plywood box, with a lens attached to the front. (He points out that he does sometimes use what is essentially a camera.) He then attached L.E.D.’s to his finger tips. The image was created by the movement of his fingers as he loaded a 12 gauge shotgun. It’s a snippet of information which, at least for this viewer, entirely changes the perception of the image.

We’ll run more of my interview with Marco Breuer on the air next week.