Disappearing Architecture

Black as pitch

Olaf Rößler

Olaf Rößler, Black as pitch, Kottmar


Olaf Rößler, Black as pitch, Oderwitz


Olaf Rößler, Black as pitch, Olbersdorf


Olaf Rößler, Black as pitch, Schlegel


Olaf Rößler, Black as pitch, Tauchritz


For the first time in history half of the worlds population lived in urban areas. Let´s take Upper Lusatia in Germany as an example how the global challenge is being managed. This means the emigration from rural to urban regions. Several studies show that in just twenty years from now the first small towns will have irrecoverably disappeared. This trend is also shown in the fact that men are leaving and the wolf has it´s come back. Although this is a region that was wealthy for centuries. This you can see in the old architecture and diverse in culture. There even were a lot of structural changes several times: How mankind has left it`s footprint from the early medieval times, the feudalism, through the industrialisation, the communist era to this present day. I’ve decided not to show the outcome of my thesis in a traditional documentary way. I took the challenge to create a new contemporary image of these landscapes which have been struck by huge big socially upheavals, especially during the last twenty years. Since the reunion of Germany this region is bleeding to death.
My photos are infuenced by the work of the German romantic painters Carl-­‐Gustav Carus, Karl Eduard Blechen und Caspar David Friedrich. These painters have also worked in this region, the south east of Germany, a part of the former German Democratic Republic close to the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. But they did their work just 200 years before me. Their paintings often show landscapes in a romantic light setting, like sunrise, dawn or the blue hour. My photos are not taken at daytime with unsettled light. My pictures were taken at night, without any visible light. The nights in this area are really dark black, there are no big cities and the streetlights in the villages are turned off at midnight. Which means that there is no light pollution in the sky, it is actually as black as pitch. The landscapes in the photos are only visible through the photographic process. The outcome is a special kind of contrast and subtly chromaticity that rises from the dark black, a picturesque landscape which is usually hidden in the dark for the human eye.
The title of each picture refers to the place of origin: Kottmar, Schlegel, Olbersdorf, Tauchritz, Oberoderwitz. The pictures are contemporary landscapes, with contemporary issues: The incomplete bridge in the forest and the wind generator on the hill are a an example. The first for new infrastucture and the second for new technology. The lake with the playground which is a former coal daylight mine, the green house as a symbol for the permanent industrial outcome. Each issue is supposed to be a promise for a better future, for jobs, for higher living standards. But is this true? The last photo shows houses, a part of a town in a romantic environment. I am asking for the relationship between men and nature. It looks so picturesque romantic and on the other hand so oppressive like a dark vision. It leave you with a ambivalent feeling.
The mystical atmospheric impression of „black as pitch“ refers to Lars von Triers cinematic picture language. The images are telling their own stories and might inspire you to a night-­‐time road trip on memory lane. In the end they leave us with questions like: What remains if men are gone?
„Black as pitch“ was originated in the summer of 2012 for my photography diploma degree at the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld. I’ve worked on the photos for three months every night under every weather condition. I´ve visited about one hundred places several times to find the right exposure by try and error, as I couldn´t see anything. „Black as pitch“ is a photographic work about my motherland that I left fifteen years ago.

© Olaf Rößler