Artsy Asks Gregory Crewdson, Uta Barth, and Yuki Onodera All About the Window

Artsy , September 30, 2013

In 1826, a French inventor named Joseph Nicéphore Niépce recorded the world’s first photograph from the second-story window of his studio. And although View from the Window at Le Gras may have been the first shot taken from a window sill, it certainly wasn’t the last. Skip ahead a century, and 

, too, would capture the courtyard of his apartment at 5 rue de la Santé in Paris, or later, vistas of the industrial American landscape through the windows of train cars. Whether looking out or looking in, the window has been used both as a framing device and conceptual tool—window as camera lens, window as picture frame, window as voyeur into private lives—and a new exhibition at The Getty, “At the Window: A Photographer’s View” traces some of the most iconic shots. From Niépce’s first windowsill snap and through early architecture and social documentary, the exhibition arrives at the conceptual work of photographers like Gregory Crewdson, Uta Barth, and Yuki Onodera—who we couldn’t help but ask about their respective takes on the window.


Uta Bath photographs exclusively from within her home, and windows are a repeat and unavoidable subject, acting as camera lens in framing and lighting her subjects:
“I start most discussions about my work by saying that I am interested in perception; in vision itself and in how we see, more than in what we see. I want to foreground the perceptual experience over anything we may think about whatever it is we may be looking at.
The window is a wonderful vehicle for referring to the act of looking. I always remember an image I first saw in undergraduate school by Robert Frank. It is from “The Americans”, a view from a hotel window onto a nondescript town. The photograph has a wonderful twist. By stepping back slightly and including the window’s ledge and both curtains, one thinks of the person standing at this window, looking out onto the scene. It becomes an image about the act looking. Without these simple inclusions we would only have an elevated view of an ordinary town.
I have used the image of the window in two linked projects: ‘nowhere near’ and ‘…and of time’. In ‘nowhere near’ the camera traces the repeated view out of my living room window over the period of many months. The changes that run through this series of hundreds of images consist only of framing, changes of light and the change of the seasons. The work deals with duration of looking and the prolonged engagement with nothing much at all.
The works from ‘…and of time’, one of which is included in this exhibition, are the inverse of nowhere near. They depict the light streaming through the same window, as it projects onto the floor and wall of my living room. The window becomes the aperture of the house and light and imagery project through it.”