Jumping between Levels
In American road movies, the protagonists usually travel from East to West, or vice versa, and photography has also been inspired by the trip across “God’s own country” – one needs to think only of Stephen Shore or Robert Frank. By contrast, the Austrian photographer Alfred Seiland repeatedly traveled for several months from North to South, from South to North, along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, taking a total of 110 photos over eight years. Only 48 made the final selection for his book East Coast – West Coast. He always spends a lot of time finding the perfect place, often returning several times to capture an unusual situation – without ever staging a setting.
Seiland also quite deliberately limits himself technically: 4x5” film, always with one and the same plate camera, no filter, long exposure times, tripod, usually the same lens. He seeks out a realistic angle: “When looking through the camera, I see more or less the same thing as I would without it.” Using a fixed ratio of sides to top and bottom, he then makes enlargements and sometimes spends hours correcting in order to ensure that the colors and lighting temperature are exactly right and he has eliminated even the smallest mistake. This method brings results. But what makes his images so unique? Is it the typical buildings and landscapes? Or the people who leave a trace everywhere without ever being in the middle of things? Possibly it is the colors, the light and the shadows, the lines and surfaces. And without a doubt it is the jumps between the different levels in each image.
These jumps put size into relation, one example being when the yellow limousine in the foreground makes the white wooden house with the red roof on the other side of the street seem like a toy in terms of scale. They also offer unexpected insights, for example when the patchy reflective sun protection on the shop window mirrors only the light, whereas the narrow strip of window beneath it reflects the beach and the sea. Alfred Seiland seeks to oppose superficiality – in the East, the West and wherever else it looks as if this superficiality might gain the upper hand.
born in St. Michael, Austria
autodidactic approach to photography
teaches as a professor in photography for communication design students at Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart
lives in Austria