The Different Approach


Thomas Schoenberger 


Claus Stolz - The Different Approach

Like a shot from a nine-millimeter Makarov, the bullet penetrates into the ballistic gelatin, soft and red, shattered glass, hard web of fractures, cracks, craquelé. The associations with Sun 341 are manifold, any other would be just as possible, but they all do not apply. There are no clues for the memory that seeks, finds nothing suitable, because the works of Claus Stolz have an intention, but no motif. They arise from the technology itself. 

The performer must bring his own twist with him to defend himself against the neutrality of photography. Claus Stolz, the photographer and conceptual artist, has developed methods to visualize the film material itself.

Stolz plans the controlled coincidence. He starts, observes and stops reaction processes, exposes light-sensitive material to light, rendering it unusable. Stolz researches, collects, tests, analyzes, destroys and observes. The image becomes visible in the light as soon as it is taken. The picture is the motive. That's his different approach.


The Sunburns cycle. An experiment like in the laboratory, but only possible outside in sunshine under the open sky. For his project, Stolz builds apparatuses that are larger than a plate camera, wooden constructions that are aligned at right angles to the sun, with lenses from Japan that function like burning glasses. The sun's rays are bundled by the lenses, up to one meter in diameter, and hit the photo plate or film, sometimes also photo paper.


The heat is high, a short exposure time is usually sufficient. The emulsion layer, which lies on top and is first exposed to the radiation, expands, in the focal point an iris-shaped point forms, first light yellow, becomes rapidly larger, an area of orange, with fiery red outer circles, blue-violet tones. The heat of the sun's rays creates silver-coloured bubbles within seconds, the material solidifies, partly to ashes. Glass as a layer carrier usually cracks at the latest when it subsequently cools down, while the cellulose acetate of the layer carrier curves, bends and warps in the films used by Stolz.


Stolz's decision about the picture consists, apart from many test and trial series, in closely monitoring the process of destruction and stopping it in time, removing it from the focus of the lens, the burning light of the sun. The Sunburns are sun images of bubbles, ashes, shattered glass.


At this point, Stolz's technicidal approach enters into a conflict with the predetermination of the medium of photography, which she is repeatedly accused of: duplication, the absence of an artistic handwriting because it is depiction. 

One aspect is certainly that photography was already mature before it even came close to another view. The techniques of photography were already available, even before photography was used as an artistic medium. The documentation of the past and the fleeting events cannot be captured with any other medium as closely as with photography. Stolz counters the difficulties that arise for the practitioners of photography from this history of technology, which is always also a history of the medium's problems, with a completely different approach to the medium. Stolz' works lead back to the conditions of how photography is created in the first place. He shows the problems of a processuality of photography. They are not images in the true sense of the word, something cut out of the world, it is the materials themselves that become the image. The photographic source material, the film, the old glass plate become the central component of his statement. 


An image is created as a result of physical and chemical reactions. The effect of the lens, the exposure, the film, the plate as image carrier itself is the work.


The reversal that Stolz undertakes results in a demarcation from the imaging photograph. He watches the exposure, needs no shelter, no camera obscura.


Stolz Light-pictures are photographed photo glass plates decades old. 

He collects these Photographic Plates from Agfa, Kodak, Perutz, Hauff and other companies, with such beautiful names as Chromo Isolar, often forgotten names, but sometimes Stolz also uses freshly cast plates from a Russian niche supplier. Glass is the carrier material for light-sensitive emulsions with a protective layer on the back. 


Some of the plates are up to one hundred years old and have been stored for an extremely long time, so that in some places, despite undamaged packaging, a little light seems to have penetrated them. Dust, scratches, small inclusions, fluff become visible. Traces of former packaging, perhaps even manual work, traces of long, possibly also improper storage. Who knows how many hands the packs went through in the meantime?


When Stolz removes the plates from the packaging, they are exposed to light without the protective box of the camera. This makes them unusable for their actual purpose. Their materiality, however, only becomes visible in this way. Stolz prefers to photograph the non-light-sensitized backs of the plates. The so-called anti halo layer on the back of the plates often has a particularly picturesque appearance, which is normally not visible at all when used properly. It is water-soluble and is washed out in the chemical processing after regular exposure. After that the photos are visible on the plates.

In Stolz, on the other hand, coloured traces, structures for which there is no explanation, become visible in the light. Are they random traces that were created during the production of the records?

For him, the photographing and enlarging is a preservation of these traces, an everyday archaeology of photography, the remaining materials of a past method of producing images. Through his technique it is possible to see what was not visible before - the image carrier of the image.


Here, too, it is the material itself that leads to the emergence of photography. The material is disclosed. The artist's work is in the intermediate world of the apparatus, the chemical and physical conditions, the photographic techniques. 


The Light-pictures are also a sovereign response to the attacks of traditional genres against photography. For what can be seen on the glass plates are sometimes red stripes with yellowish pale inclusions, sometimes blue-black or green, horizontal or vertical, even crooked lines, drops that run across the surface, sometimes painterly, sometimes graphic, dried, solidified or as if they had clotted, often applied with a brush. 


An AGFA information brochure, probably from the 1930s, gives us vague hints: "Such layers can be preserved by means of collodion, which has been mixed with castor oil and stained with Aurantia", as it says in the brochure Über lichthoffreie und farbempfindliche Platten ( Dr. M. Andresen, Berlin, ca. 1930). It reads a little like 1001 nights today.


Perhaps that's what Susan Sontag once meant in her essay On Photography, when she was looking for the difference between photography and all the other image systems: the ability to develop a life of its own that can only be influenced to a limited extent by the outside world, the photographer, the image maker.


The works of Claus Stolz are an example of how photographic representation triggers something in the mind that has a wider effect than the mere depiction of the world. The trick with conventional imaging is simple. The portrait or the landscape always function only in the sum and within the limits of these subjects. The observer only sees what the pictures recall from his memory. Now a chain of associations begins to take effect. Fixed on what takes place in his consciousness, he is distracted from photography as pure photography.

In the photographs and heliographies, the viewer immediately judges only what actually exists before him, without the intermediate stage of the images of the world. 


Stolz emphasizes the technicidal side as the very essence of the medium. He frees photography from those restrictions that have always been imposed on it from the outside, but which have nothing to do with the medium themselves. An old contest about the hand - made, the absence of the hand - writing that supposedly entails the absence of sentiment. The accusations are wide-ranging and cannot be assigned to any one direction of thought. Not the loss of the aura through reproducibility, as Walter Benjamin suspected, nor the return to craftsmanship as a cure from modernity, which Heidegger demanded, being at hand. Rather it is in the work of Claus Stolz to hold with Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who stated succinctly - all our ideas are already damaged. 

Translated with


Claus Stolz  Heliogafie/Konkrete Fotografie 

Heliography/Concrete Photography 

© 2019 by Claus Stolz

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