Monday, February 05, 2007

Jitka Hanzlová - Forest


Jitka Hanzlová is quite well known for her portrait work, but I especially like her work on the forest surrounding the village where she lived as a child. I've always been intrigued by forests and woodlands - like mountains they often seem to embody the beautiful and the sublime (in the awe-full sense of "dark, uncertain, and confused.") at the same time. John Berger has written about her work:

"...Many nature photographs are like fashion photos. This is not to dismiss them; they record and admit pleasure. Mountaintops, waterfalls, meadows, lakes, beech trees in autumn, are asked to stand there, wearing themselves and giving the camera a moody look. And why not? They are reminders of the pleasure of at last arriving after hours in airports.

Nature as hostess.

In Jitka’s pictures there is no welcome. They have been taken from the inside. The deep inside of a forest, perceived like the inside of a glove by a hand within it....


It’s a commonplace to say that photographs interrupt or arrest the flow of time. They do it, however, in thousands of different ways. Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” is different from Atget’s slowing down to a standstill, or from Thomas Struth’s ceremonial stopping of time. What is strange about some of Jitka’s forest photos - not her photos of other subjects - is that they appear to have stopped nothing.

In a space without gravity there is no weight, and these pictures of hers are, as it were, weightless in terms of time. It is as if they have been taken between times, where there is none...


In the silence of the forest certain events are unaccommodated and cannot be placed in time. Being like this they both disconcert and entice the observer’s imagination: for they are like another creature’s experience of duration. We feel them occurring, we feel their presence, yet we cannot confront them, for they are occurring for us, somewhere between past, present and future....


Return to the forests that belong to history. In Jitka’s one there is often a sense of waiting, yet what is it that is waiting? And is waiting the right word? A patience. A patience practised by what? A forest incident. An incident we can neither name, describe, nor place. And yet is there. The intricacy of the crossing paths and crossing energies in a forest - the paths of birds, insects, mammals, spores, seeds, reptiles, ferns, lichens, worms, trees, etc, etc - is unique; perhaps in certain areas on the seabed there exists a comparable intricacy, but there man is a recent intruder, whereas, with all his sense perceptions, he came from the forest. Man is the only creature who lives within at least two timescales: the biological one of his body and the one of his consciousness....

The longer one looks at Jitka Hanzlová’s pictures of a forest, the clearer it becomes that a breakout from the prison of modern time is possible. The dryads beckon. You may slip between - but unaccompanied."





Here is a cached link to the full Berger article

4 comments:

Luis said...

Hanzlova's Forests do have the aura of mythical or sacred spaces, but not warm, embracing ones. They come across as distant, definitely not 'raw materials', just the opposite, more like a crucible for developing human consciousness.

--- Luis

stanco said...

Jitka's photographs have a beautiful and delicate sense of mystery and foreboding- something that was quite evident in her book, and something I would have never caught on the net repros.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Fantastic site Tim - this has quickly become one of my favorite daily reads!