Tag Archives: worldpeaceacademy

Gerhard Richter, Natalia and me

Sometimes a few quite unrelated aspects of one’s life come together and create a new synthesis.

I am in Basel, Switzerland, twice a year to teach at the World Peace Academy and I am fortunate to know Natalia B, a young Russian, who studies European affairs in that beautiful art-packed city. When there, I take photos of her, mainly portraits.

Last year, the Tinguely Museum in Basel held an exhibition on the themes of art and cars and car culture and we went there together also to see whether that unique environment would function as backdrop for some pictures. And this is where Gerhard Richter, Germany’s perhaps most important living artist, comes into the picture – literally speaking. 

One of the paintings in the exhibition was his Two Fiats (1964) driving fast through a wood. Many of his paintings appear almost as photographic works. So does this one. I got the spontaneous idea of asking Natalia to stand in front of painting. I admit it was a daring experiment in front of – or inside – a master’s work.


Natalia in Gerhard Richter’s painting “Two Fiats”
© Jan Oberg 2011

In contrast to the blurred trees and moving cars, she became a fixed, sharp element. Natalia’s very straight-backed pose offers a third white, vertial figure corresponding with the trees in the background.

I deliberately did not place her between the two cars, and later I cropped the image slightly to avoid making it a photo of Richter’s painting but, rather, using it as a photography.

I avoided flash to give it a soft character and leave no shadow on the painting itself.

Painting and photography are two very different, but related, methods to see the world. For instance, Gerhard Richter and David Hockney have grappled with these two media all the time. I am interested in exploring how they are – can be – related.

I believe I caught a young woman in the midst of a blurred, fast moving world. I also put a reflecting human being in the foreground of technology and nature with no anthropocentrism intended.



Natalia in Gerhard Richter’s Painting “Two Fiats”
Inkjet print on Canson fine arts paper or on canvas
Formats & prices (excl postage):
A5 (148 × 210 mm) – Edition unlimited, 20 US$
A4 (210 × 297 mm) – Edition 50, US$ 115
A3+ (329 x 483 mm) – Edition 25, US$ 225
A1 (610 x 910 mm) – Edition 10, US$ 750
Signed and numbered.
Comes with print authenticity documentation.
Information/Order: janoberg@mac.com
© Jan Oberg

Working with Natalia in Basel

This is a kind of introduction to a person you’ll also meet at my photo site in the future – Natalia B, a Russian born in 1988 that I take pictures of. Here is the story, or rather the beginning of it – and a little about why I am fascinated by this type of photography.

I teach peace and conflict resolution at the World Peace Academy in Basel every now and then. I was there last week. I meet so many young people there from all over the world – 30 in the room from about 25 countries…it gives me hope for the future. But we should never say that it is up to the young ones to take over; we should say that it is our duty to make it easy for them to succeed us, rather than leaving behind a world in a mess.

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