The renowned photographer August Sanders said, "In photography, there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated."
Argentine-German photographer Gerardo Korn's latest series of black and white photography titled 'Behind the Scenes - Buenos Aires, A Unique Tribute' corroborates Sanders' saying in many ways. In the series, Korn manages to capture the metropolis of Buenos Aires in its absolute beauty and in complete stillness. Almost all his pictures have been shot during late hours of the night and early hours of the morning, sans any activity or human presence, when the architecture of the city stands tall in all its glory.
Above: Gerardo Korn with some of his phototgraphs.
"My photographs are the result of my inner urge to portray my hometown off guard and only for me to be its only witness. For me, it is no less than a revelation, almost as if it were a spiritual journey," Korn says. The photographs in the Buenos Aires series were taken over a period of six years by the artist from 2011-2016, with Kodak’s classic Tri-X black and white film using a camera he purchased almost thirty years ago.
Through his pictures, Korn also exhibits his traits of being an astute observer and a patient documenter of the world around. His photographs are like personal representations of public spaces: empty spaces whose beauty and fullness are accentuated with the interplay of diffused light, fog and dew.
'Behind the Scenes - Buenos Aires, A Unique Tribute' is currently on display at Mumbai's Cosmic Heart Gallery in association with the Consulate General & Promotion Centre of the Argentine Republic. "This exhibition by Korn, like the title itself, will reveal to its audience extraordinary sights with a magical and romantic view," says the acting Consul General Alejandro Zothner Meyer.
Jalpa H Vithalani, Creative Head & Director of Cosmic Heart Gallery says, "Gerardo is crafty when it comes to his photographs, each of them birthed because of his unique vision. The series will allow its audiences to connect more to Buenos Aires which is considered the Paris of South America. It is a very special year, as we mark the 70th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Argentina. So it is great timing that we are having this exhibition.”
Gerardo Korn’s work has been exhibited in Buenos Aires in 2016, at the prestigious Centro Cultural Borges, and in Berlin in 2017, at the Argentine Embassy in Germany. His last exhibition took place in Germany in November 2018, at the WinterShall Holding Company in Kassel.
Barrio Barracas | Puente Vehicular (Neighbourhood of Barracas | Car Bridge)
The image of this classic bridge, with its cobblestone and tramway tracks reminiscent of distant times, was one of the first to be part of this photographic series. According to Korn, this somehow reminds him of Berlin. This bridge has also been featured in several movies.
Barrio Palermo | Puente Pacífico (Neighbourhood of Palermo | Pacífico Bridge)
Korn has named this the ‘World Cup photo’. For more than three years he would go regularly to this particular place of the city — so central and so crowded — with activity and people 24 hours a day. More so because a railway branch, an underground line, several bus lines and a taxi stand converge here.
It was "impossible" to get this picture without people in sight, Korn mentions and then describes how he had said back in 2011: "If Argentina reaches the final of the next Soccer World Cup, I'll be there to take that photo." And that's how this picture happened!
"In 2014, with Argentina and Germany playing the final in Brazil, I abandoned the game and a meeting with friends to escape to Puente Pacífico and with the whole country glued to the TV, becoming a solitary witness of a scene that may not repeat itself."
Barrio La Boca | Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda (Neighbourhood of La Boca | Nicolás Avellaneda Transporter Bridge)
"Always looking for the fog, I woke up very early on Sunday morning, but as I looked out I noticed that the predicted weather had not occurred. Nevertheless, I checked the forecast again and saw that fog had come up in the harbour area. So I packed my things and hurried towards the city, just in time to take this picture," says Korn. This iconic transporter bridge in La Boca, named after the former president of Argentina Nicolás Avellaneda, is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It was built in 1914 and it ceased its operation since 2017.
Barrio Monserrat | Avenida de Mayo (Neighbourhood of Monserrat | May Avenue)
Korn describes how the scenery of this place, with the subway access, the decorative lantern, the mythical Palacio Barolo and the impressive façade of the building ‘La Inmobiliaria’ created a unique frame that he had to capture. He says, "It was an early Sunday morning shortly after sunrise, but the street was still in the shade, with several people close by at a bus stop. I had to hurry so that nobody disturbed my composition, paying attention to the right angle and converging lines..."
Barrio Nueva Pompeya | Puente Alsina (Neighbourhood of Nueva Pompeya | Alsina Bridge)
For Korn's Buenos Aires project, the Alsina bridge was the farthest destination. "The photo needed a good dose of adrenaline because it was an area I did not know and because for the photograph I had in my head," he says and adds, "I had to stand in the middle of a highway at 7 am, on a Sunday, with little visibility, with everything that meant. It was worth it."
Barrio Palermo | Club de Pescadores (Neighbourhood of Palermo | Fishermen's Club)
For a long time, Korn had been thinking about taking this photo with a very long exposure, in order to transform the Río de la Plata river into a silky ice-like surface. To achieve the desired effect, he says, he needed a very dark filter on the lens, high tide, good wind and clouds.
"This day came, but much stormier than expected, which is why I had to protect the tripod with my jacket from the wind during the three minutes of exposure time while keeping the cable release pressed and even looking at the clock!" recollects Korn.
Barrio Palermo | Facultad de Derecho (Neighbourhood of Palermo | Faculty of Law)
Korn talks about how in this photograph, in particular, it was difficult to adjust the camera because it was still very dark despite being an early Sunday morning. Looking back, he says, "I was a bit lucky, because shortly afterwards one of the lights under the bridge on the right broke and later another one. There is no doubt that without those three lights on, the picture would not be the same..."
Barrio Monserrat | Basílica de San Francisco (Neighbourhood of Monserrat | Basilica San Francisco)
Korn discovered this scene on a weekday while walking across the Plaza de Mayo, a place full of pedestrians and cars. On Sundays, this place is besieged by a craft market.
"The only possibility was to go there very early, with the first light of day, which came up on a Sunday morning at 5.30 am," Korn recollects. "I wanted to set up the tripod without having to hurry, but paying close attention to converging lines of the church, street and other buildings, to bring everything into balance," he adds.
Barrio Palermo | Planetario (Neighbourhood of Palermo | Planetarium)
"I repeat myself," remarks Korn talking about his knack for capturing monuments in the fog. This iconic building stands in an area where there is always some wind blowing from the nearby coast, therefore, it is difficult for the fog to stay. In addition to that, Korn explains, it also becomes a task on the part of a photographer to capture the reflection of the building in the lake in a way that it does not appear too distorted by the long exposure time.
But with him, a kind of a miracle happened. After three years of patient waiting, this night came up with the conditions he had longed for. He says, "While I was taking several shots, the fog waited patiently until I was done!"
Barrio Caballito | Avenida Rivadavia, Subte (Neighbourhood of Caballito | Rivadavia Avenue, Underground)
At this place, visible and at the same time slightly obstructed, thus mostly overlooked, the trains of Line A — the oldest underground in the southern hemisphere — come to daylight and onto the noisy and always-congested Rivadavia Avenue, in order to drive to the nearby depot. Korn says he made this discovery on a Sunday morning when the rising sun and the early haze gave this elegant picture the right light.
Barrio San Nicolás | Edificio Bencich (Neighbourhood of San Nicolás | Bencich Building)
The corner of the Bencich building, with its monumental style and impressive domes, is very central and crowded. This striking view presents a varied amount of curves and straight, horizontal and diagonal lines, which are a challenge for photography when the intention is to avoid distortions and converging lines.
Given the large number of pedestrians who walk along there, the intense traffic on the traditional Diagonal Norte Avenue, and after trying several shots over two years, Korn decided that he should take the photo on a rainy Sunday at dawn. He believes this is one of the most difficult photos of the whole series.
"Even if you do not notice, the rain at that time was quite strong, so I had to assemble the camera and tripod beforehand, take everything very quickly to the right spot (which I had chosen a few days before), adjust the camera to the right balance, and at all times hold an umbrella so the lens would not get wet (yes, I got soaked!)."
Barrio San Nicolás | Teatro Colón (Neighbourhood of San Nicolás | Teatro Colón)
The world-famous Teatro Colón is difficult to photograph because of its dimensions; one has to decide the frame on one of the building's four fronts, each of which faces the street. By day this area is frequented by a large number of people and there is always a lot of traffic.
Keeping all this in mind, Korn decided to shoot it on a rainy melancholic Sunday afternoon. Also, he particularly zeroed in the front that houses the main entrance. He recalls how he took several shots until he found the right one. "That afternoon soon turned into a night... I had to pay special attention that the lens of the camera did not get wet because it was raining cats and dogs..."
Barrio Retiro | Plaza San Martín (Neighbourhood of Retiro | Plaza San Martín)
Korn says he has always wanted to capture this picture, "inspired by the classic photos of the Central Park in New York and the ‘Literary Walk’ there". Photographically, the magic of the picture lies in these trees, called ‘Tipas’ in Spanish, bereft of any leaves, which is something that only happens in October. In addition to that, it also had to be foggy.
"So, the goal was to find a Sunday morning, so there would be no people in sight, in the month of October, with fog — a rather difficult combination and a challenge to luck, patience and persistence," he says adding that this moment was captured, with all the ideal conditions in place, only more than two years and three winters of waiting.
— All pictures courtesy of Cosmic Heart Gallery and Consulate General & Promotion Centre of the Argentine Republic, Mumbai
Behind the Scenes - Buenos Aires: A Unique Tribute by Artist Gerardo Korn will be on display until 30 September 2019 (11 am - 7 pm, Tuesday - Saturday) at Cosmic Heart Gallery, G-2a, Court Chambers, 35-New Marine Lines, Mumbai 400020.