Raphael Kajetan Krottenauer
Born 1988 in Vöcklabruck / Upper Austria
Based in Vienna (Austria)
It is an overcast November day. I am sitting in the park and feel the moisture rising up through the soles of my boots. The sky is white. It looks like someone has slid a large paper backdrop behind the horizon. I can barely make out from where the sun is shining. The clouds hang low creating a diffuse light that illuminates the world evenly. Shadows are faint and barely discernible. Humidity is condensing on the concrete in front of me. I have a hangover and my fingers are getting cold. My dear friend Raphael taught me to appreciate unassuming settings like these. He tells me that their composite parts, in the combination I am experiencing right now, have led to the photos I like best of his work. And so I think of him fondly whenever the sky is white. On such days I find myself paying particularly close attention to light and shadows, to the artificial forms of buildings and the subtle variation of colours in concrete. Art displays attention. It shows how much loving, caring attention a person can pay to a part of the material world, however small. The sculptor directs it at the lump of polystyrene or clay in front of him, the painter at the canvas. Both draw from the world, interpret it and translate it into their own language. A photographer’s attention works in a slightly different way. It interacts directly with the world, scanning it, searching for a moment that is worth isolating. This is why photography itself is about the act of appreciation. According to John Berger every photograph communicates the message: “I have decided that this is worth looking at.” -I appreciate this moment in time to such a degree that it is worth recording. This is what lends special intimacy to photography: it conveys the sense of appreciation another person felt for a moment, for a setting or simply for the way a shadow falls on a wall. Ideally, it can kindle a similar appreciation in the viewer. Raphael’s photographs are beautiful, not by capturing what we already know to be beautiful, but by drawing our attention to beauty where we are not used to seeing it. In this sense they are exercises in appreciation of beauty normally unseen and mostly unappreciated. Displacing conventional ideas of beauty, his photographs expand the field of things one can appreciate. This act of displacement renders so many of his photographs curiously humorous. Raphael has a keen eye for the absurd juxtapositions and their visual effects manifest everywhere in urban spaces. He documents them with humour and a touch of facetiousness. In his photographs smooth surfaces, images of perfect people and other objects of desire brutally collide with a decaying city where lost adolescents spray anarchical symbols onto gritty concrete walls and mannequins watch over crowds like giant, faceless demons. Such motifs do not announce themselves in their environment. They cannot be searched for and require a special presence of mind not to be overlooked. Raphael uses the undirected gaze of a flâneur, traversing the city aimlessly but attentively chronicling the present and appreciating its absurd beauty. And with this in mind I get up and continue my stroll through the park.
Text: Matthias Ramsey / 2018