My artistic model
In 1958, during my student days in Cologne, I had discovered Herbert W. Franke’s book “Art and Construction” and in it the photo “Twisted Rubber Ring”. Both inspired me and accompanied me on my professional path – in its ambivalence between triviality (of the everyday object) and sublimity (of the necessary state of its object). It became (unspoken) my artistic guiding principle. Not much later I also met Herbert personally. Since then he has accompanied my professional career as a kindred friend until his death. The picture of my first contact with the work of Herbert W. Franke in 1958 will now go into the collection of the “art meets science – Foundation Herbert W. Franke” as my tribute.
Since the early 1960s, Gottfried Jäger has been working in the field of “abstract” photography. He regards the photographic process not only as a medium for conveying external conditions, but as an artistic object in its own right. With this approach, he is the forerunner of a new generation of photographic artists such as James Welling, Walid Beshty, Liz Deschenes, Marco Breuer and others. In over fifty years of visual practice, his name has become one of the best known in German photographic art. In 2014, he received the Culture Prize of the German Society for Photography, like Stephen Shore (2010), Wolfgang Tillmans (2009), Ed Ruscha (2006), David Hockney (1997) before him. The prize also recognised his academic achievements as a photo theorist and photo historian.
His works are “photographs of photography” (Stiegler) – the result of a search for the hidden image in the photographic universe. In the process, his own image orders emerge, which are reflected in partly logical, partly random series of images – comparable to experimental investigations in a scientific laboratory. These include “Gradations” (1983), made visible through the photographic black-and-white material, and “Chromogenic Series” (from 1980). With his “Mosaics”, Jäger succeeded in the 1990s in connecting and transitioning to computer-related works. He calls them “snapshots”: snapshots from the data network. They are not created “of their own free will” in a single creative moment, but on the basis of earlier, photo-generated works and programmes. Jäger shows that each technique generates its own visibility. His series reflect the logic of the apparatus and the controlled and repeatable process of finding and creating images.
With this approach, Gottfried Jäger participated in the activities of the first generation of early computer art and its manifestations: for example, in “Experiments in Art and Technology”, Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1968, in “New Tendencies”, Zagreb, 1969 and worldwide in “Wege zur Computerkunst”, 1970-1976, curated by Herbert W. Franke.
His work also unfolds in connection with other disciplines of the “concrete” arts. Thus with concrete music in the “Playing Strategies” of the 1960s, together with Karl Martin Holzhäuser and Walter Steffen (music); so also with concrete poetry through his light graphics to the text “Roman” by Helmut Heißenbüttel, 1963. His closeness to concrete visual art is shown in the collection “Concrete Art in Europe after 1945” in the Museum im Kulturspeicher Würzburg and its catalogues from 2002.
Gottfried Jäger has also devoted himself to the formation of concepts. This becomes clear in his book “Abstrakte, konkrete und generative Fotografie”, edited by Bernd Stiegler. It is one of more than thirty books from his think tank, such as: “The Art of Abstract Photography” (2002), “Can photography Capture our Time in Images? A Time-Critical Balance” (2004), “Concrete Photography” (2005) and “Light Image and Data Image: Traces of Concrete Photography” (2015). Numerous international exhibitions mark Gottfried Jäger’s artistic path, as do his works in important museums and collections.
Gunther Dietrich and Tomás Rodriguez Soto after an interview with the photographer in February 2022.