Glaspass (Walks #10)
Thomas Flechtner b. 1961, Winterthur, Switzerland
Glaspass (Walks #10)
70 3/4 x 86 5/8 inches (179.7 x 220 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the Young Collectors Council, 2003
2001 Thomas Flechtner
During the late 1990s, Thomas Flechtner compiled what may be one of the most extensive photographic examinations of snow made to date. His large-scale prints swell with the stuff. Horizon lines, when visible, remain well inside the upper registers of the frames. Many of the pictures edge toward the monochromatic, their whiteness interrupted only by shadows or spare architecture. As a resident of La Sagne, in the Jura region of Switzerland, Flechtner worked from experience: with every winter's snowstorms, roads disappear, residents leave town, and life comes to a standstill. It is in these conditions that the photographer made his work, venturing by skis into the cold and barren landscape.
Flechtner completed four series of snow photographs, in which the drifts increasingly overwhelm signs of life. In Colder (1996–2000), Flechtner—who began his career photographing architecture—focused on La Chaux de Fonds, a town near his home. In these night scenes, the buildings' lights seem like bastions of life under siege of the weather, and they cast brilliant colors on the highly reflective whiteness. The hotels and parking decks at high mountain passes in the Passes series (1997–2001) are abandoned and partially buried. With the sky indistinguishable from the ground, the structures float in a silvery whiteness that dominates the compositions. In Walks (1998–2001), Flechtner used his skis to carve banded patterns into untrammeled fields of snow, capturing his actions with exposures of up to five hours. These systematic interventions into the landscape refigure the image of humanity against the elements in an elegantly formal manner. Finally, Frozen (2000) presents icy landscapes so hostile that humanity is altogether absent. This series was photographed in Greenland and Iceland, where Flechtner had traveled in hopes of creating more of his Walks; however, violent storms persistently erased his patterns. Turning to the desolate landscape itself, he created stunningly empty visions of what seems like another planet, where the snow exists in a sublime environment of blue and white light.