Hans Georg Berger. The Learning Photographer

29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery presents Hans Georg Berger. The Learning Photographer

Hans Georg Berger. The Learning Photographer
© Hans Georg Berger Offerta, 1997 / Offering, 1997 Gelatin Silver Print Courtesy of 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery

My chief goal as a photographer is not to collect a visual documentation or to re-interpret it in the light of my aesthetics. My curiosity and my need to learn instead drive me to begin by establishing a rapport of trust and collaboration with the people who, in my opinion, can help me understand a certain cultural reality from the point of view of a first-hand experience. I considered it quite the compliment when a great Laotian Buddhist, who had been watching me work for two years, told me in his language something that, translated by others into English, turned out to be the sentence: ‘You are a learning photographer’.” – Hans Georg Berger

From the 8th of April to 16th of July, 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery is proud to present, for the first time in Milan, the work of German photographer and writer Hans Georg Berger.

Hans Georg Berger. The Learning Photographer
© Hans Georg Berger Luigi XVI, 1978 / Louis XVI, 1978 Gelatin Silver Print Courtesy of 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery

The exhibition, entitled ‘The learning photographer’, brings together more than 30 sophisticated black and white gelatin silver photographs printed on fine art baryta paper produced from negatives conserved in the German artist’s archive and carefully selected by the directors of the gallery and the artist.

The works in the exhibition retrace a fifty-year long career starting in the seventies when the artist became involved in the restoration of the Eremo of Santa Caterina on the Island of Elba. Berger transformed the ex Fransiscan monastery into an international art centre which for years proved a melting pot for the ideas and experiences of artist friends, writers, painters and photographers. It was here that the pivotal meeting between Berger and the French writer and critic Hervé Guibert took place with whom he established – apart from a strong emotional connection – a photographic and intellectual relationship. From this intimate dialogue, which saw the two taking turns behind the lens, emerges that which the artist describes as a “shared photography”. The photographs from the series ‘Un amour photographique’ (from the book of the same title) belong to this concept and are among the most beautiful and moving of Berger’s photographs.

Hans Georg Berger. The Learning Photographer
© Hans Georg Berger Intimità svelata, 1985 / Intimacy Revealed, 1985 Gelatin Silver Print Courtesy of 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery

The exhibition charts Berger’s voyages – both personal and artistic – and his travels through Asia. These photographs reveal the close bonds that the artist built with these places and their inhabitants. Thanks to a deep shared understanding built between Berger and his subjects, the photographer breaks down the emotional distance between photographer and the object of representation, presenting us with an intimate portrait of the Orient.

Thanks to his previous dedication to the theatre where he tried his hand as an actor, screenwriter and director, Berger experiments with photography as a form of ‘community involvement’ – meaning a creative process which forsees the involvement of an entire community and submits his work to the judgment of the same subjects portrayed and, thanks to whose feedback, the artist manages to transmit, photograph after photograph, the true essence of whoever he is photographing.

I could thus start a dialogue, asking why an image was wrong and placing my interlocutor in the role of a teacher and myself in that of a disciple. Through the remarks that gradually filled up my notebook, I outlined the coordinates, the perimeter, and sometimes also the meaning, of an aesthetics that was distant from ours”. – Hans Georg Berger

Hans Georg Berger. The Learning Photographer
Hans Georg Berger Carlo, 1995 Gelatin Silver Print Courtesy of 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery

Whether in their depictions of architectural sites, such as the temple of Angkor Wat, festivals and ceremonies such as that of Luang Prabang, or moments of the daily life of the monks of Laos, Berger’s photographs are far removed from a mere documentary rendering but rather tell the true story and human experience of the places he has visited and lived in. Furthermore, they offer an invaluable historical testimony that contributes to this day to commemorating and protecting cultural diversity.

The purpose of the exhibition is to tell the story of a life and career beyond the ordinary. The many different themes shown represent Berger’s countless experiences and affect the viewer who takes away from it one coherent fil rouge: the search for intimacy between photographer and subject that Berger had already experimented with Guibert and that then becomes his own visual language and stylistic cipher. From the sensuality of his nudes and unmade beds, to his landscapes and portraits of the Orient, the power of these photographs lies in the artist’s ability to convey the soul of all his subjects, creating, without exception, powerful and poetic images of radically different subjects in far away lands. It is an extraordinary, probably unique, journey at the centre of great contemporary photography.

The exhibition is accompanied by the art bookHans Georg Berger’, personally signed by the artist and rendered more precious by the addition of an original artwork. The book has been published as a limited edition by 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery in collaboration with the Lugano’s Museum of Cultures and contains accurate reproductions of seventy-five photographs – some of which never before seen – accompanied by texts and poetic material from the famous writers and figures who surrounded the life of the artist.

The exhibition will open to the public on the 8th of April. To visit the exhibition it is required that you book in advance by writing to: staff@29artsinprogress.com. Access to the exhibition will only be granted upon receipt of booking confirmation.

Via San Vittore 13, Milano
8 April – July 2022

Credits: © 2021 Hans Georg Berger / Courtesy of 29 ARTS IN PROGRESS gallery