Stefan Heyne

Stefan Heyne

Work from The Noise.

Heyne’s work falls into the tradition of out-of-focus German photography that stands in sharp contrast to work from the Dusseldorf school. Heyne’s photographs lack a point of focus, or if I were to assume his intentions, serve to challenge sharpness as the default state of focus. In many ways, I see Heyne’s work to be an examination of sight, fixing an image in the periphery before resolving focus and context. Heyne acknowledges the photograph as record, yet seems to want his images to function as objects rather than records.

In many ways, his work is an exercise in futility, as barely recognizable objects are just that, recognizable. The issue here is not specific to Heyne’s work, but to ideas of focus and perception as a whole. To engage the viewer, there must be hope to resolve the content of the image, otherwise it functions as an abstraction rather than a photograph. The paradigm of photographic viewing is so ingrained with representation that to ignore the purpose of the medium would render you unable to critique it. A perceptible relationship to photographic representation allows us to challenge the function of the image and question inherently photographic ideas.

After spending some time with Heyne’s new book, The Noise, which is an ironic title for out-of-focus images with smooth gradations, subtle tones, and quite subjects, I am still left wondering about the larger motivations to the choices of focus. Heyne’s use of focus is an effective visual tool that produces some stunning images, but the nature of the medium leaves me wondering if there are better ways to engage us in an epistemological inquiry of photography. Considering this, is Heyne trying to fix the visions of our periphery or change the way we see?

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