At a time when digital manipulation reigns supreme, Vera Lutter employs one of the most elemental instruments of photography, the premodern camera obscura, to create a stunning, monumental triptych. The camera obscura, also known as a pinhole camera, is literally a dark room into which light passes through a small aperture that acts as a lens. The image appears inverted on the wall opposite the pinhole. For Frankfurt Airport, V: April 19, 2001, Lutter constructed, as she always does, a project-specific pinhole camera: she positioned a modified shipping container on the visitors’ terrace of a Lufthansa terminal. Placing photographic paper on the wall of the room-size chamber and exposing it to light for an extended period of time, she was able to record many hours of activity in a single large-scale image.
Lutter’s process creates a unique photographic print wherein positive becomes negative and light becomes dark, distorting notions of time and space in a direct, unmediated record of the world. The reversed tones mirror those of a surveillance camera, stealthily spying on runway traffic. Movement is captured as ghostly outlines, blurring the various people and aircraft across the passage of time. Despite their imposing size and conflated imagery, Lutter’s monoprints are neither enlarged nor manipulated. She manages to pin down reality while creating a dream state in slow motion. In the foreground the large Lufthansa jetliner registers as a phantom, leaving traces of its being in a stunning luminosity.