William Lemke’s show, New Images of the Old World brings out what I feel are the best qualities photography has to offer. The piece I’d like to bring to the forefront is his, “Church Window and Pitcher” taken in a church in France. It’s a simple composition with the subject sitting front and center, beams drawing strong diagonals to the window, and the windowsill serving as an internal frame to the pitcher and panes. That simplicity does it no disservice however, and my god this is a beautiful picture. The light pulls you dramatically, but then the soft spiderwebs carry you delicately to the cracks in the wall, the crucifix, funnel, and tongs.
I absolutely love this photo for its ability to hold in time this fragile scene. Almost nothing we see looks as though it will endure nor outlast. The cobwebs will fall away, the pot teeters inches from rolling from its perch, and the plaster is already broken and cracked. In short, this captures a moment that none of us will ever see. It was already disappearing long before we saw the image, and by now we have no idea of its state. I think that’s what draws me so much to Europe as a whole. It’s a culture I’m familiar with but instead of the gloss of this era we see the dirt, wood, and rock western civilization was built from.
Not only that, but we get to appreciate what will happen to what we leave behind. Some of my favorite images I’ve ever seen are of the return of nature to human made structures. Typically those pictures show the advanced stages of reclamation, but Lemke shows us just the references of this decay. There is no exaggeration here; only soft, subtle beauty.