Faces become masks, beggars become icons.

An exhibition of photographs by Ralf Schmerberg that chronicle the artist’s encounters with the world around him with an incisive and candid gaze through photography and film. The focus of this exhibition is the personal photo diary he has kept for the past two decades which constitutes an evolving autobiographical record of his life, work and travels.

Schmerberg has developed a photographic form that is highly personal and open-ended, even deliberately ambiguous – one that engages viewers and rewards their prolonged consideration. He is an obsessive cataloguer of categories. And in cataloguing, the viewer is confronted with all of the difference and dissonance of imposed order. Categories begin to break down and recombine with the sensibility of a poem – the scraggly light of a firework will echo the edge of a fur in a window display, or a splatter of sauce on a plate. Faces become masks, beggars become icons.

His photographs make the viewer feel uncomfortable at times – not everything is beautiful or refined. There is certainly a dose of the sublime, a touch of transcendence, but there is also a counterweight of stark reality, undressed, discreetly observed, both secret and messy. Suddenly, we are faced with truths that are poignant in their honesty. This degree of discomfort, of the confrontational aspect of photography, creates an emotional investment with the work. Imagery becomes drama. Each piece tells a story, functioning as stills in a movie the artist has shot. The longer one considers these images, the more questions they pose.

© Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery