PORTRAITS BY WOWE

2. 11. 2012 — 6. 1. 2013
Leica Gallery Prague exhibits the iconic portraits made by German photographer Wolfgang Wesener (WOWE) at the end of year 2012. Over the course of his career, WOWE has photographed celebrities from the arts and politics.

There is a timeless quality about WOWE’s photos that only few really master. If you look at his portraits of people who have formed the culture and the politics of our times, you will immediately grasp this aura of greatness that is beyond category. You might only know the names of some of these figures, of Dennis Oppenheim or Miuccia Prada, of Susan Sontag or Sergio Pinninfarina, or you might have seen the face of Andy Warhol, Grace Jones or Michael Schumacher a thousand times before. The greatness of ultimate achievement is something that only a man can capture who has a vision of greatness himself.

If you have the opportunity to sit for a portrait of WOWE it will immediately become clear, how this is achieved. There is no superfluous gesture, no moment without thought. Lighting is set perfectly. This can be done in a studio setting, where he works like a true master, never using more than one light on the person he portrays. There is a reason: „In daylight there’s also just one sun“, he says. He has perfected his minimalist technique to the point, that he can even use it in the spur of a moment, when he takes a small flashlight and reaches high over his head to flood the situation with momentary brightness. This is the tradition of imagery that has been around for much longer than photography itself. The portrait thus becomes a document with an eternal quality and not just a snap of a moment in time.

Growing up in the Mosel region of Germany WOWE studied his craft at the famed Folkwang Schule in Essen. This is one of the most influential schools of art in all of Europe, instilling a sense of both tradition and vanguard curiosity in its students. While still in University in the early 80s WOWE started to take pictures fort Spex, a magazine whose mix of intellectual debate and pop subjects  changed the style of culture reporting in Germany forever.

In 1984 WOWE moved to New York, where he became the photographer of famous society columnist Stephen Saban. It was in the legendary nightclubs like Area, Palladium and Limelight where WOWE crafted his skill of impromptu portraiture that forever set him apart of his colleagues. In New York he also started to work on his large body of color work shown in this exhibition. Most of these grand portraits were the result of a close relationship with the legendary weekend magazine of the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung designed by Willy Fleckhaus, whose art director Hans-Georg Pospischil was known for giving a new generation of groundbreaking photographers a forum.

When WOWE moved to Italy in 1990 with his family, WOWE became global. In addition to Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin he worked for Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Stern and the weekend magazines of the New York Times, The Observer and the Telegraph. A large body of his work has been published in a two volume set of books entitles „Essence“, which accompanied his retrospective at the photo museum C/O Berlin.

Since 2009 WOWE is back in New York, where he continues to chronicle greatness. He continues to stick to his guns - WOWE’s latest work is done mostly using available light, a medium format camera  and black and white film. With photography becoming more and more a form of high art he is part of a vanguard again.

Andrian Kreye, curator of the exhibition

Detailed descriptions of the photographs located in the exhibition


WOWE (Wolfgang Wesener)
was born in 1960 in Cologne, Germany. During his studies in Communication Design at the Folkwangschule Essen (1981-84) he photographed for the music magazine Spex. Arriving in New York City in 1984, he assisted Hans Namuth and Evelyn Hofer while capturing New York’s nightlife for Details Magazine. In 1986, he began a twelve-year collaboration taking portraits for the legendary FAZ-Magazin, the weekly supplement to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He moved to Italy in 1990, continuing to photograph for international magazines and pursuing personal projects. He currently lives in New York City.

Selected exhibitions:
1984 Photographie Galerie, Düsseldorf
1985 Olympus Galerie, Hamburg
1986 Kunstverein Schwelm
1990 Vera Engelhorn Gallery, New York (NY Nightlife)
1994 Vera Engelhorn Gallery, New York (Venitians)
1996 Vera Engelhorn Gallery, New York (Color portraits)
2003 C/O Berlin, Berlin (Kometen der Nacht, Nightclubbing in New York)
2003 Galleria Valentina Moncada, Roma
2003 Bayerischer Hof, München
2008 C/O Berlin, Berlin (Essence, 25 years of portraits)
2011 Leica Gallery New York, New York (Nightclubbing, New York Nightlife in the ‘80s)
2012 Bienalle d'arte di Asolo, Asolo (Portraits by WOWE)

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