Take a Walk Down Memory Lane of Film Reels: “The Unseen Seen” Photography Exhibition Runs to June 21, 2014

the unseen seen by reiner riedler 3

“THE UNSEEN SEEN”. Fotografie – Reiner Riedler

Monday Friday 14:00 – 19:00
Saturday 12:00 to 15:00

Galerie Hengevoss-Dürkop
Klosterwall 13
20095 Hamburg, Germany
Telephone: 49(0)40-30393382
Fax: 49(0)40-30393383


Managing Director: Dr. Kerstin Hengevoss-Dürkop

Viewing the large scale, colourful, dream-like photographic images of film reels is like taking a walk down memory lane as Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler invites you –  especially movie aficionados, film archivists and historians – to reminisce his or her own cinematic and filmed memories onto the photographs of film reels for popular movies such as:

  • Gerhard Damann – Das Caviar Mäuschen, 1919: A silent, black-and-white film;
  • Michel Curtiz – Casablanca, 1942: A classic, black-and-white film;
  • Francis Ford Coppola – The-Godfather, 1972;
  • Federico Fellini – Ginger and Fred, 1986; and
  • Krzysztof Kieslowski – Trois Couleurs: Bleu, 1993.

The photography project “The Unseen Seen,” by Reiner Riedler and the film archivist Volkmar Ernst, “allows the physical states of film to manifest themselves as photographic works of art.” During several visits to the Deutsche Kinemathek’s film archives, Riedler photographed “archival film materials while maintaining their backlighting under constant lighting conditions, which ultimately emphasized the physical properties and the composition of each film reel.

  • The film reels are radiantly displayed in a variety of colors.
  • This aesthetic and the uniqueness of these materials, known primarily only to archivists and projectionists until now, are being made accessible to a wide audience.”

Here is a different perspective on film as the “invisible” medium for Riedler’s photographic works of art.

“….film as physical material, over and beyond projection, the roll of film on a reel or spool packed in a film can. Unlike in other visual arts, the material support plays a comparatively minor role, for the film lives through projection and remains materially invisible… the film base and the image-bearing layer, together with their material transience….

In The Unseen Seen, Reiner Riedler therefore undertakes an unusual balancing act: his photography reduces the medium film to its materiality, making of it photographic works of art….The Unseen Seen also takes as its theme the physical medium film, presents pictures of destroyed reels….

Colour films are cooled and stored below zero temperatures to minimize decay of the dyes in the photographic layer; the highly inflammable film base cellulose nitrate (“nitrate film”) can by law be stored only in special bunkers…..

…..cellulose acetate came to be used more and more frequently as a film base from as early as 1910 – initially for 9.5mm and 16mm amateur home movies, and a few decades later for the professional 35mm format. Since about 1950, only film stock of this type has been used. Cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate deteriorate as they age owing to various chemical reactions. The water content evaporates and the base begins to shrink. As a result, films can no longer be viewed or duplicated. In the case of cellulose nitrate, the base can degrade to such an extent that the reel is completely congealed and can no longer be unwound.”

Film archivist Volkmar Ernst: “The Unseen Seen – Film in a New Light” at Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen

Please click here for more exhibition info in both english and german.