From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Bare Essentials

Auditoriums, concert halls, libraries, even restaurants—all places we see and frequent in our everyday lives. Yet we've never experienced them as we do when we peer through photographer Candida Höfer's lens. Displaying what critic Constance Glenn has called "the orderly arrangement of space swept clean, absent its implied inhabitants," the 60-year-old German artist examines the architecture of public-free interiors while giving the impression that lives are unfolding just out of sight. Envision rows of a completely vacant theater, unopened letters in mail slots, barren libraries with thousands of neatly shelved books.

Höfer uses emptiness, along with light, composition, and depth of field, as a formal element in her photographs. Objective documentary photography? Why settle for that, when a quick read between the lines reveals so much more.

Candida Höfer: Architecture of Absence, will be published by Aperture in October. A companion exhibition opens in January 2005 at the University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach.

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