W.G. Sebald (2)

After lunch, I went to the second of the two Sebald exhibitions currently on in Norwich, this one, W.G. Sebald: Far Away – But From Where ? on a balcony of the Sainsbury Centre. It is much easier to interpret his own photographs here, as they are shown unframed in display cases together, rather charmingly, with the boxes from Boots where they were processed. He must have acquired a camera with a panoramic facility because he is very keen on panoramic images, as when he photographed Whitechapel Market and the Alderney Road Cemetery in April 1998 (he managed to get into the cemetery). He then got Michael Brandon-Jones to print details in black-and-white, distancing them from reality, and these images were then used, sometimes shrunk, to illustrate the books, as if they were found photographs (some of them were), not modern Boots snapshots.

This is a photograph he took in Mile End Cemetery in January 1999:-

Here it is in (I assume) Austerlitz:-

Michael Brandon-Jones owned a copy of E.O.Hoppé’s Picturesque Great Britain published in Berlin in 1926 and it is Hoppé’s aesthetic – grainy and atmospheric – which informs Sebald’s own approach to photography.

This is Hoppé’s photograph of a Steelworks in Sheffield, a detail of which was reproduced on p.108 of Austerlitz:-

There is then a screening of Tacita Dean’s elegiac film of Michael Hamburger’s Devon apples. She uses 16mm. film in the same way as Sebald uses his photographs, as a distancing technique. And the screen prints Tess Jaray made based on extracts from The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo.

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