Biography from his website
Joachim Froese is an Australian contemporary art photographer who lives and works in Brisbane and Berlin. Born in Montreal, Canada, he grew up in Germany and migrated to Australia in 1991. He is best known for his highly constructed still life photography, which investigates cross-overs with art history, personal memory, portraiture and nature photography. Froese has exhibited widely across Australia, Europe, Asia and North America. His work is included in numerous public collections including the National Gallery of Australia and the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art and has been featured in international art publications. He has taught photography as a casual lecturer at universities in Australia and Germany for more than 10 years and was invited to give guest lectures at major universities and art institutions in Australia, Asia and Europe.
These images and the one at the head of this post are from his 2007 project “written in the past“, he wrote the following description describing the project;
” “We cannot arbitrarily invent projects for ourselves: they have to be written in the past as requirements” (Simone de Beauvoir)
“The objects depicted in this series have a physical or emotional relation to events in my recent – or more distant – past. Each object constitutes memory, each image tells a story linked to my mother’s recent death and/or my childhood.
To me, the images are explicit, they describe events in much the same way as a diary would. For the viewer, only the essence of my thoughts is accessible. It is on this level that they talk about more fundamental aspects of the human existence such as balance, loss, and memory per se.
In these works nothing is still, everything is moving, floating and filled with hidden meaning – as is life.” (Joachim Froese, 2017)
There are a number of aspects about Froese’s work that I find has resonance in respect of my own work in Year 3. The use of a table or shelf is a classic still life construction used extensively in classical painting, it gives a base to the image which I used in the Tempus Fugit project and unsuccessfully attempted in the In Step project. Photographed against a black background it gives a feeling of fading into infinity, the objects depicted appear to exist for the brief moment of the photograph itself. Placing some objects on the edge of the wood gives a sense of jeopardy as if they might disappear into oblivion.
Unlike the objects Froes has chosen, the footwear I photographed, mostly, have no personal connection to myself . Nonetheless I agree with his observation that objects can contain, at least in the sense of recall, memory and this resonates with my own In Step project. The footwear has travelled with, and will have experienced what their owners did when wearing them. Whether that was simply the weather – traipsing through the rain or strolling in the sunshine or silently witnessing some significant event in the life of their owner, perhaps, something directly related such as running a marathon or a more passive but important role such as the joyful celebration of a wedding.
If you have personal knowledge of an object it might trigger direct recall of a very specific event, person or a time in your life. However even if you don’t have that direct connection I would contend it has the ability to remind you of a similar event. For example, sport shoes might remind you of a great day enjoyed by the professional team you support or, more personally, a school team you were part of. Children’s shoes can trigger memories of your own children when they were toddlers or perhaps even your own first steps.
Thus such objects contain memory in the sense of their ability, although they are completely inanimate, for us to recall past events when we simply take the time to contemplate them.
In an earlier work entitled Rhopgraphy created over a 4 year period from 1999-2003 Froese examined another aspect of this phenomenon.
Firstly (part) of his desription of the work :
“Rhopography refers to the Greek word rhopos, meaning trivial objects, small wares, trifles. This old fashioned term for still life painting is the title for a series of images, which depicts dead insects and food left and references the tradition of the Baroque still life…Although the pictures show a scenario that does not exist in reality, their language stays strictly within the tradition of documentary photography that signifies truth, including sharp focus and the black border around each print…Historically painting in the 17th Century was at a similar crossroads as photography is in the digital age. Baroque still lifes developed a naturalism that challenged preconceived ideas about painting and marked the beginning of ‘photographic thinking’. The use of optical tools, and the suppression of all painterly gesture, led to seemingly truthful depictions, which nevertheless were highly subjective constructions of, and reflections on, society and religion. (Joachim Froese, 2017)
I found that this work also has relevance to both projects I have undertaken for the 3rd year. Latterly the use of trivial objects, dead insects and rotting food for Froese, discarded or recycled footwear in my case. I contend in both cases this elevates the trivial and causes the viewer to consider the objects in question in a new light whereas previously they would be simply discarded both mentally as well as physically. My intention in In Step is to present the objects, on prints much larger than life, to literally confront the viewer with these, often, valueless in normal terms objects and force the viewer to consider what in front of them. This is the same device that Froese uses in much of his work where he creates a series of prints designed to be mounted in a continuous line that can be between 10 and 30 metres in length.
The other aspect is the still life construction of Baroque art, specifically Vanitas painting style in my own case for Tempus Fugit, with its highly symbolic and stylised presentation. Which has one view at a superficial level and a much deeper one if you understand the symbols being used and their meaning both in terms of the image itself and on the intended consequences for the life of the viewer, reminding them of the moral values and standards to be striven for as dictated by the Church at the time and their own mortality.