It will certainly one day become evident, if it is not already the case, that photography’s claim on objectivity, as an index to the “real”, was nothing but an anormaly, a growing pain in the history of the medium’s legitimisation process. For Edwin Zwakman, the justification of constructed photography is no longer dependent on its subtle fractures with “photographic evidence”. That critical front, initiated over 30 years ago in conceptual photographic practises and finally synthesized and popularised in the large scale photographs of Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall, has run its historical course.
For Zwackman and other young photographers emerging in the digital age, there is an absolute acceptance of the constructed image at every level of cultural production, and a celebration of its visual effects over claims to its genealogy with the “real”.
Zwakman pulls his camera back to reveal the lights and stagecraft behins his elaborate sets, not out of a self-conscious modernist disposition, but to demonstrate the absolute equivalence between the scene depicted by the the maquette and the instrumentality of the photographic act the business of the constructed image as usual.
What is unique to Zwakman’s photographs is the way in which his laborious construction methodology re-enacts the overdetemined environmental design processes particular to the Dutch landscape he depicts. It is this doubly constructed effect that give his images their critical edge. The residue of utopian modernist ideals that permeate the sujects of his photographs are slowly and critically undone through their obsessive reconstruction as images.
The problematic inherent in the effect of Zwakman’s laborious production method is that it solicits a slow and allegorically paced reading that may no longer be ready accessible in a globally modelled universe immersed in fast image turnovers and the depreciation of the complex layered languages bases of cultural specificity. In this regard, his photographs are resistant to the constructed photographic methodology of advertising. In response, they register a desire for a symetry between the labor of artisitc production and the labor of receivership. “Time”, with all its false starts, delays and expenditures, is their ultimate subjects. For both Zwakman and his viewers no stone should be left unturned.
Dennis Adams, 1998.