The exhibition presents a new series of portraits of teenagers by Paul Kranzler taken at a school in one of London’s most deprived areas. Also on show is a series of photographic portraits of Catholic youth in rural Germany and Austria, previously exhibited in Austria and the UK, as well as archival photographs of Hitler Youth from the 1930s and 40s, as well as early Austrian boy scout pictures.
Kranzler’s photographs explore the aspirations of people living in tough economic conditions and the cultural tensions they face. His new series of portraits was taken in the classrooms of Stoke Newington comprehensive school in Hackney and are exhibited here for the first time.
These latest photographs represent a continuation of Kranzler’s “Land of Youth” series which is also on show here. In it Kranzler searches for intersections between traditional rural ways and the modern international lifestyle among young people living in the Krems valley, the Black Forest and the plains south of Berlin. One youth wears a “Kylie, Britney, Christina & Pamela” T-shirt underneath his firefighter’s uniform. A dark-haired beauty poses in her fake Courrège dress on the main road of a village. This series of black and white portraits makes it clear how hard it is to leave behind the old rituals of village society, and yet how strong the influence of television, video and the internet has already become.
Kranzler’s main focus in “Land of Youth” is a young man named Thomas R. living with his family in a small cottage in the woods of rural Austria. It is only from the entire series and not from the single image that we can discover Kranzler’s main concern which, far from denunciation, aims at the visualisation of a reality where beauty is found beyond standard aesthetics.
Born in Linz in 1979, Paul Kranzler’s first social reportage was entitled “Land of Milk and Honey”, which in 2005 resulted in a solo exhibition at the Lentos Museum of Modern Art in Linz, and a book published by Fotohof. The subjects of this series were Toni and Aloisia, his elderly neighbours in Linz, whom he would visit to watch television or chat before Toni was moved into an old people’s home.
Paul Kransler’s photographs act as social documents of life in a particular place, in this instance, Linz and London, at a particular time. The pictures are stark, yet compassionate at the same time, convincingly continuing the great tradition of social realism in photography into the 21st century. “I am not interested in finding out the details of the lives of people portrayed…I am not interested in speculating about it. Yet somehow I have to come to terms with what I see.”