Ways of Seeing


For his latest steamy series of large-scale photographs, German photographer Thomas Struth positioned himself just to one side and slightly in back of Michelangelo’s magnificent
David in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. The nine color photos on view form a kind of wraparound photographic fresco and give us an art’s-eye view of the power, the glory, the wonder, and the sheer sexiness of what seeing looks like. In the offing, Struth also provides insight into how varied and extraordinary these ways of seeing can be.

Some onlookers are glazed, others are dazed. Some are bored, others are obviously looking at David‘s private parts. Young swains watch women who are watching David. Strange Kabuki postures are assumed, dramas build and unfold. A girl tugs on a boy’s shirt sleeve as he looks away. Americans with their fanny packs and Japanese tourists with cameras make good every cliché. A distracted mother tends a crying baby, a conscientious father reads to his daydreaming kids from a guidebook, and a museum guide who has seen observes. Look closely and you’ll see David himself reflected in the glasses of a few onlookers.

These new Struths are encyclopedias of seeing and taxonomies of looking. They’re Holgarths by way of Victor Hugo and history painting. They’re also very fun.