Archive as source


Photographs 1965 – 67, 1965 – 1967/1995
Berlin Cityscapes, 1976/1994
Images of people (excerpts), 1981 – 1989/1997
Self, 1984 – 1989/1998
Nature, 1987 – 1997/2014

A photographer’s documentary archive comprises negatives, slides, contact prints, digital image data, work prints, correspondence, research materials, book designs, press materials, specimen copies, work documentations, installation sketches, invitation cards, posters and other such materials.

In the mid-1990s Michael Schmidt discovered his archive as the source of new interpretations of earlier photographs. His archive was now steadily gaining in importance for him and he revisited it regularly for a critical revision of his early work and for new prints. In particular he chose photographs that display a more open character than the bulk of his early commissioned work. These photographs avoid any overt claim to reliability and temper any certainties with doubt and the reference to interest in other themes.

In the late 1990s he completed a project entitled Menschenbilder (Ausschnitte), for which he extensively cropped an older series of portraits. This artistic intervention succeeded in detaching the subjects from their surroundings, turning them into generally valid prototypes of human behaviour.

At that stage Michael Schmidt also published a series of self portraits that had taken shape in the mid-1980s under the title Selbst (Self). In an act of critical self-questioning he presented himself to the camera directly and unsparingly.

When he was already seriously ill, Michael Schmidt selected in 2013–14 the pictures for his art book Natur (Nature) from his archive, the majority of which date from the late 1980s. They are testament to the significance he attached to landscape.