Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Who knew disease and death could look this good?

Mar 03, 2017 - Erik Franssen

Maybe my love for horror movies is to blame, but I cannot keep my eyes of these images. There is something exciting about images that gross you out and attract you at the same time, about the physical sensation they bring about. Look at the small picture of the inflamed eye caused by Syphilis for example! The wonderful illustrations in The Sick Rose, a publication about disease, are so strong and compelling in their use of color and detailed description, that I want to look at them again and again. These visuals in this beautiful designed publication hail from an age before color photography and therefore remind me of what has been lost because of it and of how far we’ve come in tackling certain diseases. We are so much focussed on a specific physical beauty nowadays that we’re disconnected from the beauty of the complexity within our bodies, from the exceptional machine that we are. And like machines we can be broken and this book shows this in all its splendor.

Thames and Hudson


The attraction also lies in the fact that you’re not supposed to look at the suffering of others, that you’re invading their privacy like a voyeur. Another fine example are the images in Plaats Delict (crime scene) that come from the Amsterdam police archives between 1965 and 1985. Looking at the well balanced selection of pictures in the book many questions and contradictory feelings come up. Some images send a shiver over my spine and overwhelm me with a sense of sadness and loneliness and I wonder how these people ended up like this? Looking at others I catch myself wondering if it is even possible for the body to stay in a certain position after one’s deceased? Like the man in the kitchen sink who yet seems to be standing up, which gives the scene, supported by the neat kitchen, a surreal quality . The studio photographs on the other hand have a fashion sensibility to them because of the colored background and well lit details and the disguised in the book look funny and clumsy. The background of that period helps a great deal. It helps the viewer to keep a certain distance and view it as a reminder of the past, not as a current reality, which is a misconception of course. For most people to view images of this content there is need for a certain abstraction and the editorial staff did a great job in their selection process by preserving the right amount of mystery.