Swiss artist Beatrice Minger has spotted a recurring photographic motif in numerous news stories: people pointing at things.
Take for instance, if a newspaper is reporting on something being knicked from a bar, the usual accompanying shot is of the victim pointing at the place they were sitting. Or think of the classic story of a passerby noticing something strange while wandering past a lake, it turns out to be some historic relic. To illustrate the story, the finder will be stood waterside, pointing into the abyss. Beatrice noticed this common trait and has collated 124 “pointing pictures” examples, from both the Swiss local and tabloid press in order “to produce a kaleidoscopic portrait of Switzerland,” now published as a book, Hier Sass er (which translates as Here he Sat), published by Edition Patrick Frey.
“We’ve all seen these pictures in the press: a person standing at the edge of the picture pointing at something – a window, a field, a red Mitsubishi, a bullet hole,” explains Edition Patrick Frey. “The face is self-righteous, accusatory, outraged, or inviting, proud, even joyful. The caption then reveals what it’s all about.” These captions – unfortunately for us, printed in German – relay the stories Beatrice has picked up on and stored over the years, and in turn creates a “mosaic of stories about our co-existence, about what moves our nation deep down inside.” Beatrice manages this, even just through the humble medium of press shots, with examples such as: “the janitor of the primary school once attended by a newly-elected Swiss Federal Council member Doris Leuthard can remember exactly which hook she used to hang her gym bag on,” the publisher continues. “The gesture of pointing channels the viewer’s attention, forging a connection, a chronology, creating a story by simple but highly effective means.”
Because of the breadth of the book, in the context of news stories and imagery which accompanies them, the publication is in some parts funny and others a little harrowing. Either way, it feels very familiar due to the blotty, slightly pixelated nature that images tend to have once printed onto newsprint. In turn, the artist – who usually works in the format of video and short films – has created “a panorama of disasters great and small, outrageous incidents, fable finds, tragic coincidences and painstaking investigations.”
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