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PHOTOGRAPH: MICHAEL SCHMIDT, “UNTITLED (FROM THE SERIES ‘FRAUEN’)” (1997-99)/ MITCHELL-INNES & NASH

by Vince Aletti



German photography has had an enormous impact in America in the past two decades, but the success of Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and Thomas Ruff has eluded Michael Schmidt, who is having his first solo show in a New York gallery, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, at the age of sixty-two. While Schmidt has had his champions here (MOMA exhibited important bodies of work in 1988 and 1996), his pictures are tough and decidedly unspectacular—not exactly catnip for collectors. The photographs in his current exhibition, made between 1965 and 2004, are all modest in size and black-and-white, and were taken in Berlin. The city and its citizens have been Schmidt’s subject since the beginning, and he documents them with the kind of passionate, despairing objectivity that makes Struth’s work look decorative by comparison. History screams from postwar office blocks and drains the light from every landscape, yet Schmidt is relentless. His Berlin is a wasteland with a past that no amount of concrete can conceal
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