Thank God it’s Friday

Posted on January 30, 2015

Mario Testino in Berlin: A Holiday for your Eyes
(And my “Twitter Top 5” for January!)

Hello, I am writing this week’s column at a Starbucks not far from the Kulturforum museum near Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. I was about to write down my “Twitter Top 5” for January, but got completely distracted by Mario Testino’s latest photography exhibition “Mario Testino: In Your Face.”

Let me use the free WiFi at Starbucks to share with you my impressions from this exhibition. Mr Testino is one of the world’s most influential fashion and beauty photographers, though his name might be not well-known to the broad audience. If we believe the statistics that we are indeed 7 billion people on this planet, then I would bet that at least 6.9 billion have seen a Testino photo in their life: supermodels, superstars, royals on airport billboards, in newspapers or magazines from Vogue to Vanity Fair. His exhibitions have been held in museums and galleries around the world, and now his work is on show for the first time in Berlin.

You must go to Berlin and see this exhibit. Why? Because it’s a holiday for your eyes, a sparkling visual festival (no wonder, the crystal experts from Swarovski contributed to this show). It will remind you of the visual power and elegance of high-end photography in a time where everyone is a photographer. I wandered through this show and I admired the details of colors, lighting, the cinematic staging. The exhibition threw me back to my teenage years in the former Eastern part of our country, the German Democratic Republic. At school, I was in the afternoon photography working group. I was (and still am) a lousy photographer, and our black & white ORWO films in the former GDR were of poor quality (Thank God that there’s no record of my early career as school photographer). What I do remember however to this day today, some 25, 30 years later was that every gathering with our working group was a magical celebration. Our chemistry teacher (who led the group) gave us a topic: “Go to the schoolyard! Photograph the clouds!” We would take a few photos (not more than 2 or 3, real film was costly for our parents back then), then he would take us to the darkroom. For my younger readers: No, that’s not a place from “50 Shades of Grey”, it’s a room without light to develop photos on paper in a chemical bath…I can still smell the chemical vapors in our school’s darkroom. A few years later, after the Iron Curtain had fallen, my wife was working in the US and came back with a pretty good camera. Before we went to a family gathering or on vacation, we would calculate how much film we would need. If I’m not mistaken, a film reel could take either 24 or 36 photos, and you had to be incredibly careful, what with going to the dark room (again: not that “50 Shades” thing, even if I was adult now and vacationing with my wife) before putting a new film in the camera because it was light sensitive material, and you could only take a few photos a day. Despite all the hardship, we took great photos from that time that are still in our family albums.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not an evangelist of the black & white GDR photographs. I don’t want to buy film again before holidaymaking. I think it’s great that we have smartphones and tablets that can make brilliant photos. But, in my opinion, professional photography has lost something. Major campaigns from major brands are looking like selfies now! Advertising experts do not get tired of that amateurish imperfection trend. Newspapers and magazines fill their pages with snapshot-like photography, and claim: that that is our era’s language of photography. I was reading an article about “found footage”: People are buying boxes with vintage private photographs, snapshots, whatever – and celebrate them as art. That’s probably fun, but definitely not art (I had selected for last year’s SC Exhibitions as well as The Touring Exhibitions Meeting magazine “found footage” photos from the flea market – this most definitely does not make me an artist!)

Museums and galleries are currently at the forefront: Whilst the use of professional photography in advertising and publishing has lost a great deal of what makes good photography, now we find more and more exciting photography exhibitions. (My highlights last year: Candida Höfer in Linz, Austria, and Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis exhibition at the International Center for Photography, New York).

Mario Testino’s photography is an oasis in the desert of amateurish selfie photography. It is truly a Holiday for your Eyes

Go and see the Super Mario show in Berlin! Until 26 July. And if you cannot make it to Berlin, order the TASCHEN book (same title as the exhibition, “In Your Face”):…

And here we go with my personal Twitter Top 5 for this month:

  1. You know that cozy, warm feeling when you visit your favorite Turkish barber or Indian restaurant, where the owner knows you and greets you? Or the friendliness of a Hotel where you’ve been a guest for many years? This cozy, friendly place exists on Twitter: @sree. Sree Srenivasan is the Chief Digital Officer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His Twitter feed is an invaluable library of marketing and communication advice. He is the smartest, funniest & friendliest person I know on Twitter. If you work in the museums, arts or media @sree is the man to follow!

  2. The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. Sharp analysis, carefully curated.

  3. The British’ Guardian newspaper has been for many years at the forefront of digital change. Their websites, apps and Twitter feed are great resources. I already like their network for professionals working in culture, arts &smp; entertainment ()

  4. Simon Kemp works . He shares useful charts and analysis from the online marketing universe.

  5. I am keeping my eye on Social Flow. They are probably not so known yet, but could be one of the leading analysis tools for social media in the next future.

Enjoy your weekend!

Christoph Scholz
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