Stefan Exler

Stefan Exler, Untitled #01, 1994-96, 60 x 80 cm, cibachrome
Stefan Exler, Untitled #02, 1994-96, 60 x 80 cm, cibachrome
Stefan Exler, Untitled #03, 1994-96, 60 x 80 cm, cibachrome
Stefan Exler, Grundsanierung Kristallpalast, 2002, 190 x 213 cm, cibachrome
Stefan Exler, Ohne Titel, 1994-1996, 60 x 80 cm, c-print
Stefan Exler, Keller, 1999-2000, 197.5 x 214 cm, c-print

Simulating the Real

One fascination of photography is its naturalistic thrust. Compared with what the visual arts create, the photographic depiction of reality is plain and simply objective. Whoever knows how a photograph can be influenced by lighting, angle, cropping and aperture settings, will develop a sense of the subjective nature of the medium. Photographers who use the medium artistically occasionally go one step further by distorting the shots, deliberately irritating the viewers’ visual habits, blurring the boundary line between reality and fiction. Stefan Exler has taken an unequivocal position in the ongoing debate on the authenticity of photography: under the cloak of the documentary, he takes subjectivism to an extreme.

Stefan Exler takes an almost square-on central perspective and a matter-of-fact glance at apartment and cellar interiors. They derive their credibility from the wealth of visible details: the student room with legal compendia, the graphic artist’s studio with its drawings or the cellar full of rusty garden equipment. These are not real rooms, however, but stage sets: Exler selects, procures and arranges the props very carefully with a view to presenting an illusion of reality.

Small surprise that Stefan Exler professes that he has a “polemic relationship” to photography: often several months elapse between the prior research work via procurement of the props and actual creation of the room. During these months he reflects on the props he wants to use. And when Exler then presses the shutter release, he has already done what is most important for him: the invention of reality with the photographer exercising absolute control over each image.

Biographical information


born in Gießen, Germany

studied at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Hamburg

lives in Hamburg and Berlin, Germany