Göran Gnaudschun

Captivating Looks

Göran Gnaudschun’s portraits arrest our attention with their incredible intensity, and they raise many questions. Why does that boy look so serious? Why does he seem so near and yet so far away? Why is his gaze so haunting, even though it reveals nothing to me? In his portraits, Göran Gnaudschun does not set out to describe his subjects or tell their stories. He is primarily concerned with the look in their eyes – a look that captivates and reflects back on ourselves. For the less we know about the person depicted, the more their arresting portrait becomes the mirror of our soul and asks us to become aware of our own stories. As Gnaudschun sees it, photography does not become a finished image until it engages in such dialog with its audience.

The young people in the series “Reif” (“Mature”) could presumably tell many a story, and most of them sad at that. They all live in the children’s homes where Göran Gnaudschun photographed them. They entered into the process with complete focus and were delighted to have the undivided attention he devoted to each of them. They seem to treat the pain and suffering that forced them to grow up before their time with disturbing composure. Göran Gnaudschun’s images give these young people a dignity that has nothing whatsoever to do with the role of victim. Nevertheless, they do give us an inkling of how hard it will be for them to escape the cycle of hurt and violence.

In his essay “Die helle Kammer” (“Camera Lucida”), French philosopher Roland Barthes describes the process of being photographed. “In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art.” The strength of Göran Gnaudschun’s portraits lies in the fact that he does not exploit the people depicted in them but rather distances himself from them. Their strength lies in the restraint with which they are presented. The monumentality of the faces, created by size and closeness, is offset by the natural quality of the color and background. This style is maintained in his later series, “Neue Porträts” (“New Portraits”). During lengthy sittings, Gnaudschun observed some young people distantly known to him through his camera lens until all their efforts to portray themselves dissolved. What remains is the look in their eyes that leaves everything open and captivates us with its incredibly calm aura.

Biographical information

1971

born in Potsdam, Germany

1987 – 1993

studied hydraulic engineering with certificate

1994 – 2003

studied photography at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig (academy of visual arts), student in the class of Professor Timm Rautert, post-graduate degree with “Reif” series

since 2004

works as freelance photographer as well as academic teacher for photography at the Alice-Salomon-School, Berlin amongst others

lives and works in Potsdam, Germany.