Columbus Avenue (January 1995 – June 1997)

Beginning with her first project on 8th Avenue in 1993 and 94, Lutter documented her interest in the urban space. This has continued throughout her career. Photographing through the window of what was then her home at 156 Columbus Avenue, she focused on the towering façade across the street which inhibited Lutter, as is a common experience in New York, from ever seeing the sky yet she could see the light of the day and movements in the sky through the reflections in its windows. The study of the imagery of this altered reality would become the Columbus Avenue project.

As some of Lutter’s earliest works made with the camera obscura technique, these photographs contain aspects of experimentation and freedom with the medium that, in later projects, become more formally regulated. The close cropping of several of the images, for example, prompts an appreciation of the more abstract qualities found in the Columbus Avenue windows. Line, shape, space, and tone – expressed in the grey planes of each window, the jutting of balconies and façades, and the subtle shifting of sunlight – become vital in the formal composition of the images.

Because of the close cropping and their often highly abstract quality, the photographs present a nuanced study into the nature of space. In each piece, there is the literal wall of the building across from 156 Columbus Avenue, but even in the window’s reflections, space recedes only into more walls or the undifferentiated black sky – a simultaneous impression of infinite and shallow space. Perspective becomes further skewed not only through the mirroring effect of each window but as well in the distortions of each reflection, causing straight, architectural lines to bend and wave. In capturing her own vantage point as well as the buildings and sky above and behind her apartment, the photographs served to inform Lutter about a world she could not directly see, a world that in reality did not exist. Paralleling the window’s mirroring act, Lutter’s use of a camera obscura causes an inversion of tonality and a reversal of left and right, in effect creating an image that is a mirror to reality. This curious exchange places Lutter’s images somewhere between a self-reflective act and a depiction of the outside world, somewhere between a mirror and a window.