Thomas Struth is one of the most famous and acclaimed photographers, best-known for his family portraits and black and white photographs of New York and Dusseldorf.
In 1989 Struth began working on his series Museum Photographs. His inspiration for this project came while living in Naples and Rome, as the artist discovered a relation between art and religion and how paintings exist as agents of spirituality. By that year Struth was already showing in museums all over Europe and had to frequently travel to different cities. That gave him the opportunity to visit museums like the Louvre, spend time in them, explore and concentrate on the exhibiting works and their viewers’ reactions towards them. “The museums were almost always crowded and this led me to wonder what people were looking for in front of these historic paintings. For me the museum is a place to sharpen my tools, my perception, to delve into history. What can you valuably take from pictures from the past, which might be a catalyst for interesting or productive ideas for the future?”
His first photographs from his time at the Louvre showcase the artist’s interest in the space of the museum and the people interacting with the art. For him the importance of these photographs does not lie with the paintings but with the people surrounding them. “The idea behind the museum photographs was to retrieve masterpieces from the fate of fame, to recover them from their status as iconic paintings, to remind us that these were works which were created in a contemporary moment, by artists who had everyday lives. They can be admired but revering the artist and their work can also be an impediment. In essence, I wanted to bring together the time of the picture and the time of the viewer.”
Even though the magnitude of Louvre and the artifacts that are hosted in it would make every visitor stand in awe, that is not always the case. Bored students, uninterested people and desperate art lovers can find themselves lost in the chaos of the glory that fills the walls of the museum. For Struth is has been always about capturing moments like these. Almost none of these photos are staged, as the artist waits patiently, observing the visitors and waiting for the moment to come. The work needs to form itself, it needs to have the the right people in front of the right paintings in order to work perfectly for the photographer.
Thomas Struth continued this project for almost 20 years, constantly changing his methods but always creating unique photographic masterpieces. The German photographer has always been one of the most prolific, innovative and creative artists of his field, always leading the way for young photographers, with his style and choices of themes.