“I wanted to make photographs in which everything was so complex and detailed that you could look at them forever and never see everything.” -Thomas Struth

Artist Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth is a renowned fine art photographer with diverse bodies of work. He began his career studying painting under Gerhard Richter. Struth then moved to photography late in the 1970s at the Becher School run by photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. The school is known not only for Struth but for other German photographic artists including Andres Gursky and Candida Hôfer.

Street photographs by Thomas Struth

While in school he created cityscapes of Düsseldorf positioning his camera in the street. He earned a scholarship to create in New York City where he continued his student work with a series of photographs made with an 8 -by-10 inch camera positioned in the very center of streets. One of them shows Park Avenue, an oncoming car and the PanAm building in the background (opening photo, top left image). He also made middle-of-the-street cityscapes in Paris, Munich, Tokyo and Rome.

Thomas Struth portraits

On Photography: Thomas Struth, 1954-present
Thomas Struth with his 8-by-10 inch camera

Struth documented families of all classes from rich to those in poverty with his 8 by 10-inch camera. The super-sharp detail of these photographs is apparent in these almost stark renditions (opening photo, top row second from top left). He went on to photograph museums in two series: Museum Photographs 1 and Museum Photographs 2 including the front of the Milan Cathedral (opening photo, top row third from left) starting in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s.

Writer Karen Rosenberg tells the story of this picture, “Mr. Struth winkingly sabotages a beautiful architectural photograph with a glimpse of the goings-on at street level. The people milling around on the cathedral steps turn their backs to the Gothic grandeur; at the same time there’s a sense that they are absorbing culture and history just by being there.”

None of the Museum Photograph series were posed initially although later in the series he did place people where he wanted them.

Science artist Thomas Struth

Currently, Struth is making science projects into art. Large scale photos of projects from a stripped-down behind the scenes of and empty Disneyland to the underbelly of the Space Shuttle (opening photo, bottom left image) to families watching sea life in the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta (opening photo, bottom left image) have given museum-goers and collectors a different way of seeing science.

The video below shows more of his work on display a the St. Louis Art Museum.

Sources: The Broad, Anatomy Films, New York Times

You’ll find more short stories of influential photographers in On Photography.