Socialist Worker

Andreas Gursky the anti-capitalist?

by Guy Smallman
Issue No. 2589

A section of Amazon by Andreas Gursky

A section of Amazon by Andreas Gursky

The Haywood gallery is hosting the first ever major retrospective of acclaimed German photographer Andreas Gursky.

This lovingly curated exhibition starts during his formative years shooting large format natural landscapes. It finishes in the present as he embraces digital technology to make vast composites of many images seamlessly woven together.

While interpretations of his work vary wildly the common theme seems to be how humans have interacted with the world around them. While photography traditionally concentrates on a subject, Gursky’s images give a sense of encompassing everything. He commonly shoots from a high point, creating a vast canvass.

Though never overtly political, many of his better-known images are interpreted as a critique of modern capitalism.

Tokyo Stock Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade illustrate the chaos of the free market.


Hundreds of tiny yet exquisitely detailed traders interact with their screens and each other in a lawless montage.

Paris, Montparnasse is one of his more recognizable works. In it he has joined many individual images of one of the world’s largest housing developments.

Each unique apartment forms part of a huge tapestry of hundreds of different stories and lives within a single image.

His workplace images are equally breathtaking. Amazon depicts the interior of one of the retail giant’s huge warehouses with its sterile order and infinite shelves of desirable goods.

Nha Trang shows hundreds of Vietnamese women making IKEA furniture by hand.

His images of the enormous choreographed performances in North Korea rub up against Western cultural events such as a huge image of a German techno rave.

I remain completely baffled by the outlandish price tags attached to Gursky’s art.

But there is little doubt that his vision has transformed the way in which many people see photography and the world around them.

Hayward Gallery, London

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Sat 27 Jan 2018, 20:20 GMT
Issue No. 2589
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