STREULI, Beat; Bruxelles 05/06
Bruxelles 05/06, with its impressive scale of 200 x 280cm, was first exhibited at Erna Hecey Gallery, Brussels, and has since been displayed at the Guggenheim Museum exhibition held at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, as part of a public billboard of Streuli's works in 2007.
Born in Switzerland in 1957, and now living and working in Zurich, Brussels and Dusseldorf, Streuli is highly regarded for his photography, billboards and transparencies, which present striking images of urban citizens and environments from diverse cities ranging from Sydney to New York, and Tel Aviv to Tokyo. Exploring the crossovers between portraiture, advertising and fashion photography, and employing a serial, almost pseudo-documentary style reminiscent of early 'point-and-shoot' photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Streuli is an expert in crafting strangely intimate crowd scenes. Through these, he reveals a fascination with individuals, while at the same time proposing an epic dimension to humanity.
In Bruxelles 05/06, three men walk in an urban environment, each engrossed by their own inner world. The quickness of human motion is stilled so that we can inspect the physiognomy, the gait, the clothes and the expressions of each man, anonymously and unselfconsciously going about their business in a crowded city street. Their downcast eyes, grouped by the frame of Streuli's lens, are recorded at the precise moment at which we can imagine them looking upward to confront our gaze. The photograph evokes both movement and time. Here, we can be a voyeur who does not get caught out. We can also discern other atmospheric conditions in this work — air temperature, for example — and become aware of our own snap-judgments based on appearances.
Streuli's work plays on contradictions between the natural and the stylised, documentary and fiction, publicity and privacy, human dignity and mass alienation, the contrived and the prosaic. Capturing scenes through a telephoto lens allows him the critical distance, without confrontation, to select his subjects. The privacy and anonymity of subjects in a crowd is shown to be violable through his lens, and it is precisely our judgments and histories that complete the portraits, which, oddly, on a grand scale, allow us to share an intimate space with Streuli's subjects.