Valentine Schmidt's haunting and evocative photographs explore the traces of human presence in the quiet of abandoned spaces. As such they are not a celebration of the architecture so much as a witness to the events which it has shaped.

 

Whether through literal or abstract forms they attest to the past and yet celebrate the present. In the becalmed stillness of an out of season swimming pool fallen leaves float by as light dances across the water.

 

In such images of arrested time, where we find beauty and the pathos of decay, we can celebrate our existence now but equally must recognise our fate; to also become a shadow in history.

Her photographs of the 1936 Olympic Village in Berlin present an unflinching gaze upon the hubris and ambitions of Hitler. It is remarkable that buildings still exist and in presenting them without a critical agenda they tell their own story and bear witness to the histories they echo.

 

Again, through her revealing photographs of uncelebrated underground station transit halls, she presents their true scale and nobility, lifting them from the unassuming to the enigma of a theatrical set.

 

It is this desire to be true to the subject that enables her to explore the truths in the subject. There is no ego here, electing what is true, it is an unassuming photographer revealing unassuming places.

 

As expressed by Francis Bacon:

 

The contemplation of things as they are

without error or confusion

without substitution or imposture

is in itself a nobler thing

than a whole harvest of invention

REPOSE

The Ginoles Les Bains Spa, though now derelict and forgotten, evokes a past life of escape and tranquility. Each room housing a bath surrounded by its own uniquely beautiful decay.

 

underground berlin

Alexanderstatz UBahn station, possibly the busiest underground station in Berlin yet this vacant space stands as if deserted.

My 2015 photographs of Alexanderplatz were inspired by my aunt, artist Sarah Haffner’s favourite colour - turquoise blue. Following her reccent death I decided to return to Berlin’s underground and it’s cavernous, sometimes oddly quiet, spaces.

 

ACTS

I visited London’s South Bank after hearing the Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt describe his use of the urban landscape as an additional character in his productions. Marcella is set in London and Rosenfeldt's scenes at the South Bank motivated me to re-visit and look again.

 

This Heaven

It was Jesse Owen who used this phrase 'This Heaven on Earth' when describing the 1936 Olympic Village: - the athletes' accommodation that also served as a propaganda opportunity for the Nazi Party.

 

Jubilee

London Bridge underground station, the first escalator heading to the Jubilee Line, vivid advertising changes to a concrete wall

Abstraction offers the opportunity to introduce ambiguity in scale and subject.

 

Stationary

The climbing frames stand abandoned, permanently embedded between the edges of the Baltic Sea and the Baron Forest beyond.

 

Iceland Skies

The sky in Iceland can move through a spectrum of colours within extraordinarily short periods. An almost colourless storm is captured, introducing an unexpected beauty. The sun emerged shortly afterwards.

 

Transposition

A German childhood  educational toy positioned within  the structures of Birkenauas it’s setting. Symbols  of innocence are married with the structures and memory of the Holocaust

 

First Length In HMP

Bullwood Hall Prison  swimming pool (First Length in  Bullwood Hall).

Inmates stand in Holloway Prison’s swimming pool (First Length in Holloway).

 

Lagoon

Bathers relax in Iceland’s naturally heated Blue Lagoon.

 

Kerala Walls

Kerala's crumbling walls.

 

Minus 7

Finnish ice-hole swimmers stand in front  of the ice- hole within the frozen landscape.

 

Elevate

Members  of the Crystal Palace Children’s’ Diving Academy stand  on the ten meter high board.

 

Eight Miles

Long-distance swimmers stand in the sea, preparing for the challenge ahead.

 

Plunge

This  set of semi-abstract images documenting three London Lidos during the winter months - one in use, one empty and one derelict. Together they speak to the history and possible demise of the British open-air pool.

© 2018 Valentine Schmidt

site by Rebecca Fairman