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Mark Steinmetz


united states

Exhibition view, Mark Steinmetz, “united states“, 2019, © FOTOHOF

With the exhibition Mark Steinmetz “united states“ the FOTOHOF gallery proudly presents one of the most remarkable contemporary US-American photographers who, through his 40 years of consistent and stoic work, has become an influential personality for many photographers − also in Europe − yet this overview of Steinmetz’s work is the first solo exhibition in Austria.
Excerpts from the most important work cycles of the last three decades, and a collection of all sixteen of his to-date published photo books, illustrate the discreetness and poetic vigor that shape his works. Steinmetz fascinates as mindful chronicler. In his pictures, he characterizes discreetly deliberate states of an American everyday life. Many of his explorations are located in the sweaty Dixie, the hard-bitten southern States with their ramshackled elegance. The encounters, which Steinmetz shares with us, are characterised by curiosity, respect and restraint. His scenic observations and portraits are almost intimate, yet surprisingly unobtrusive.

Mark Steinmetz creates an atmosphere that leads everyone, the photographer, the protagonists and the viewer into a state of special unitedness that is not distracted by poses. Of course his work catalogs, almost casually, all the ATMs, telephone booths, fast food places and automobiles that intertwine our present with space and time. Nevertheless, everything seems detached and in the sense of a new, own fiction.The serene gaze of Mark’s pictures tell of a world far beyond simple political or social attribution, which often obscure the view on American society. Mark Steinmetz once called his homeland a “half-grown, adolescent country“ and in that sense his accounts of the dilemmas of youth carry more humor and complexity than most comparable genre photos.


Mark Steinmetz, “Knoxville, Tennessee“, 1992
Mark Steinmetz, “Knoxville, Tennessee“, 1991

Mark Steinmetz works patiently on long-term projects that arise or appear somehow anti-cyclically. At the same time, they formulate themselves in a forward and backward movement to series, the frames of which are often described by a place or a region. The projects are primarily constituted in book form, which are thematically moving in periods of an era. In the southern trilogy describes e.g. Greater Atlanta, the atmosphere of a broken carefree euphoria of gasoline-impaired mobility, and the title of the first part, South Central, derives from the South Central Bell telephone company that wired Knoxville. This series is reminiscent of the socio-economic state of the region before the digitalization of everyday life. Like scenes from epic movies, these images come to you precisely and full of honest fascination with humans. They reveal conditions and still keep the mystery intact.

Mark Steinmetz, Athens, Georgia, 1996
Mark Steinmetz, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1992

In the USA, Mark Steinmetz’s oeuvre is represented in most of the major collections for contemporary “united states“ (after the premiere in Munich / Lothringer13 Halle and the Amerikahaus in Munich) were newly arranged by the curators Lene Harbo Pedersen and Jörg Koopmann with Mark Steinmetz and FOTOHOF.