In Real Life

Life’s Realities in the Photo Book

Exhibition on view: September 26, 2020 – April 5, 2021
Place of exhibition: Rupertinum [3] – Generali Foundation Study Center

“We finally meet IRL!” Statements like these from (post-)Corona times indicate our need for real life. This chat abbreviation IRL (in real life) stands for the promise that tangible “real” life is waiting for us somewhere beyond the digital. But often this reality is full of hardship and incongruities. The complexity of social conditions has always been of special interest to photographers. In their exploration of social issues and of milieus that are not seldom pushed to the margins of society, they act as researchers and as critics, and as journalists and artists. The independent medium of the photo book is well suited to present these ideas, since it points beyond the individual image, presenting photos in sequences and often working with a specific combination of pictures and texts. It also experiments with the potential of the medium and develops forms of narration that are more than just illustrated stories.

The authors of the photo books presented in this exhibition share a common approach. They get directly involved in the social groups, classes, and environments that they explore, as sympathizers or critics, and they sometimes act as participating observers. At the same time, they ask how real lives can be transported into the medium of the photo book. They work with contrasting images in order to open up scope for interpretation. They use combinations of text, sound, and picture, and they play with the materiality of the book to get closer to their subjects. They include the people who matter, and they make their views of life visible, and not least they show that the photo book can get very close to life but never completely encapsulate it.

Photobooks by: Bill Brandt, Nicolò Degiorgis, Rena Effendi, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Allan Sekula, Emine Gözde Sevim, Maria Sturm & Cemre Yeşil, Stephen Willats

Curators: Stefanie Grünangerl and Jürgen Tabor

Allan Sekula, silver gelatine print on baryta paper, from: Aerospace Folktales, 1973, photo-audio installation © Generali Foundation Collection—Permanent Loan to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg. Photo: Allan Sekula