Maria Laach

In October 2010, Lutter photographed Maria Laach, an 11th-century Benedictine abbey. Situated on the southwestern shore of the Laacher See in the Eifel region of Germany, the building has changed hands many times, passing amongst royal ownership, secular oversight, and various monastic orders. It was completed in 1093 and was known for nearly eight centuries as Abtei Laach ("Lake Abbey"). Its notable Paradise porch was added in the 13th century, giving it a profile more reminiscent of Early Christian basilicas. Following a period of dissolution and secularization under Napoleon, the abbey was renamed “Maria Laach” by the Jesuits in 1862 and has since remained a functioning church and important monastery for the region.

Created by altering a shipping container into a camera obscura, Lutter’s images retain the solemnity and weightiness of the abbey’s distinctive fortress-like Romanesque architecture. Over the course of a month, she produced numerous large-scale photographs of the building’s impressive eastern and western façades from angles that emphasize the abbey’s imposing towers and high, solid walls. With the values inverted through Lutter’s technique, the structure becomes a looming silhouette, whose windows, usually cloaked in shadow, seem to be emitting light from within. Further emphasizing the inherent negative/ positive character of chemical photography, both the abbey’s western and eastern facade have two towers as if mirroring each other. Indeed, it is sometime called “the abbey with two faces.”

In addition to her large works, Lutter made a series of smaller pictures using a travel trunk that was converted into a mobile pinhole camera. Her photographs of the deep recesses of the Paradise porch colonnades and the ornate detailing on the Romanesque-style Lion Fountain again give the structures a luminoscity that uniquely conveys the spirit of the place. While the larger works project a sense of calm and stately grandeur, befitting the abbey’s storied past and defensive architecture, many of the smaller-scale images offer a private, privileged view of the abbey and its surrounding buildings.