Vera Lutter: Inverted Worlds, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA , April-July 2016

Vera Lutter: Inverted Worlds features twelve monumental photographs in a succinct mid-career retrospective of New York-based German photographer, Vera Lutter. In her work, Lutter elevates the role of the negative from a nearly invisible part of the photography process to the chief object of our attention. While many photographers have turned to negative-less digital processes, Lutter demonstrates the vast potential in an older form of photographic technology. The twelve photographs in the exhibition include large single-panel images, diptychs, and one triptych made between 1998 and 2014 in Italy, Germany, and the United States.

Lutter’s monumental photographs are one-of-a-kind negative prints made inside a room-sized pinhole camera with exposures that range from hours to months. Although the phenomenon of the room-sized camera (often referred to as the camera obscura) is one of the oldest known in the history of photography, Lutter’s results are anything but archaic. Incredibly detailed, tonally reversed, and laterally mirrored, her mesmerizing prints present a world that is at once recognizable and unfamiliar. Since the images are devoid of people because of the long exposures, each one presents a seamless continuum of time, each infinite moment superimposed on the others. In these images, therefore, the world neither was nor is, but is rather constantly in the process of becoming.

Much like the photographs themselves, the subjects are a mix of the historic and the modern, ranging from Venetian plazas and canals, to the modern skyline of New York City, to giant radio telescopes and other feats of industrial engineering. Vera Lutter: Inverted Worlds is presented in conjunction with Paper Negatives and Negative Image, two simultaneous displays that examine the role of the negative in the history of photography. Paper Negatives presents examples of the oldest kinds of photographic negatives: evocative chemical images on sheets of writing paper while Negative Image explores the modernist moment in which the negative image shifted from an intermediary stage to a graphic, final product in the course of experimentation with abstraction in photography.

Vera Lutter: Inverted Worlds is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in association with the New Orleans Museum of Art. The exhibition is sponsored in part by Millie and George Denegre and Adrea Heebe and Dominick Russo. Additional support is provided by Dr. Siddharth K. Bhansali.