The works produced by Barbara and Michael Leisgen during the 1970s represented a contrast to the prevailing style of conceptual photography, which was predominantly dominated by the typological school of Bernd and Hilla Becher in Düsseldorf. The various works showcased below are part of the Mimesis series, which has been in practice since the early 1960s. These works involve the documentation of natural imprints, exploration of the human body, and experiments related to Land Art.
One of Barbara Leisgen’s distinctive techniques involves imprinting her silhouette onto the landscape, leaving a fleeting trace. This is achieved by extending her arms to follow the contours of undulating countryside in works such as the Paysage mimétique and Mimesis series. Another technique involves incorporating the sun into an arc drawn by her arm while she is positioned centrally in the image, as seen from behind. This approach goes beyond mere imitation of nature through physical gestures; it also encompasses the act of tracing and channeling nature. The (re)appropriation of the landscape is a subjective experience, with Barbara Leisgen’s silhouette displayed within the landscape, leaving an ephemeral mark.
These photographs evoke the imagery of German Romanticism, specifically the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich. Friedrich’s painting Morgenlicht, in particular, serves as a figurative inspiration for the Leisgens’ Mime-sis works. However, their approach also deviates from Friedrich’s perspective of nature as sacred. One could argue that their viewpoint is influenced by an anthropocentric romantic outlook, similar to the French Romantic tradition. Nevertheless, despite the sublime nature of the photographed scenes and the meticulousness of the prints, which hint at the possibility of a wide spectrum of colors in the luminous light, the images also evoke a sense of naivety and inherent nostalgia found in souvenir photographs. The viewers are placed in a reflective position, observing a woman posing within a natural expanse. Through this approach, Barbara and Michael Leisgen can be seen as pioneers of contemporary landscape photography, bridging modernist and postmodernist perspectives.
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