Elina Brotherus and Esther Teichmann are the first of five photographer we are directed to study whose work fits into the category of mirrors. They use their own experiences to examine matters that affect most of us, if not all. Brotherus’s series 12 ans après is a follow-up to one she made after first moving to France, Suites françaises, and it expands on her increased understanding of the language and society after 12 years. In the original, she shows a novel way of learning a language through Post-It notes (I must remember this in future) which is at the same time a reflection on loneliness and isolation in a foreign country. 12 years later, she returns to reprise some of the original photographs, but with the additional understanding she has gained in the interim. The notes are longer, but less obvious in the images, and one often has to look closely to find them. Brotherus’ work is always about herself, but relates to emotions and situations which many of us recognise. Having moved all over the world as an adult, her feelings of confusion and culture shock about moving somewhere new resonate for me.
For me, Brotherus’s work seems quite remote. It is considered and set up in an orderly way. Teichmann’s work is almost the opposite – chaotic, dreamy, wildy different formatting and with ideas building up over the course of a series rather than being obvious from the start. To me, it feels much more emotionally led, and the way she goes about making her work is more appealing to me. She says that the process of researching and making a piece is what interests her and the end result is not as important. I like the way she talks about using the ideas of fragmentation and transience, and her acceptance that freedom from the constraint of being confined to one particular media brings. Her work has a surreal, non-geographic feel which is quite different from Brotherus, whose work is very clearly rooted in her landscapes. The concept that really resonated with me was her desire to explore the gap between solid reality and the inner fantasy world that we all (I presume) carry around inside ourselves, and I want to come back to this later in my work towards my current assignment. I also like the fact that she uses people-free images as part of her portraiture.
On the face of it though, I prefer the look of Brotherus’s work. It is neat and clean and very precise. Teichmann’s work is more of a seemingly random collection of images, sound and voice, which can look very chaotic, but which has an underlying thread which tugs away at the consciousness and reminds us of the private thoughts and fantasies that lurk underneath our outward adult exterior.
Having just come back from a weekend of mindful photography in Venice, Teichmann’s method of working seems much more in tune with how I want to go about making my own work than Brotherus. One of the things that has been bothering me about my last assignment was the way I had to pre-think and organise what I wanted to do, and although I feel the results were OK, the process felt alien. It was too organised. I’d much prefer to work the other way, by taking images with a concept in mind and seeing what they say to me.
Boothroyd Sharon (2013). Elina Brotherus Interview [online]. Photoparley. Available from: https://photoparley.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/elina-brotherus/ [Accessed 14 February 2017]
Brotherus, Elina (2015). Elina Brotherus Talk from open College of the Arts [online]. Available from: http://www.oca-student.com/content/photographers-talking?page=1#comment-72335 [Accessed14 February 2017].
Galerie les Filles de Calvaire.(2015) Esther Teichmann: in search of lightning. Press release. At: http://www.fillesducalvaire.com/press/10/48-2.pdf