the Emperor Augustus? Adonis? As a sculpture and then as a photo for the ages? When I saw the first heads from the series “metamorphosis through light” by Helmar Lerski, I was just amazed by her beauty as insecure about what I saw actually. The face seemed to transform, as if in a dream Of a majestic haughtiness of an ancient Statue – with its programmatic masculinity, as you only in Bronze and marble can be transferred to a heat or desire, tired, and sensual dreamer. From a “starting photo” of this series, a red-haired man looked at me with clear Semitic features. But the next photo put out this impression. The more faces I saw, the less I could believe that they belonged to a Person.
The camera man and photographer Helmar Lerski made in the year 1936 a total of 175 photos of the Bernese engineer Leo Uschatz. He took a picture of him under the blazing sun on the roof terrace of his apartment in Tel Aviv. Not the usual Northern lights, the portrait of an artist, but light “from everywhere” has used Lerski as an Instrument (and up to sixteen level), to carve as a sculptor from his Material faces. What one senses in these two images only, unfolds in the further metamorphoses.
In this series you will find no fixed identity, but boundless variety: You “recognize” Napoleon and Apollo, Mephisto, darkens to a miner, and then encounters the dead masks of the living engineer. Arrogant, demonic, absent, never smiling – the face remains a mystery. Sometimes the faces seem to the Olympic vision, near point of Leni Riefenstahl, or even the fascist Aesthetic of Arno Breker. The Nordic nose, the strong chin – it is only the helmet missing. Two Jews on a roof in Tel Aviv solders in 1936, the heroic Aesthetic, which speaks to this time in Europe against you.
Helmar Lerski was born as Israel Schmuklerski 1871 in Strasbourg in a Polish-Jewish family. He grew up in Zurich, went with twenty years to America, where he played in the German-speaking theatres character roles. In 1915, he comes to Berlin and is known in the twenties as an expert level technology and the camera man quickly, “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang, he is for special effects. In 1931, he produced the photo book “heads of the everyday”, which appears at first glance as a Variation of August sander’s “face of our time” (1929). Also Lerski photographed a coachman, a maid and a locksmith, but everyday environment, classification according to Professions and occupations, such as in the case of Sander and Lerski are not interested in. He photographed the “bare” heads in Oversize, puts them into the light, beyond the attributes of their profession or their Status.
This is an anthropology, and a very dramatized. The people are actors by the dramatic light of the photographer to the various rolls is capable of. Even in the face of a beggar, a Poet may be discovered. Offers the face suddenly “unfathomable ways” (Kracauer), the possibility to be radically different than the owner.
Actually, Lerski follows the inner logic of his art to the logic of the light. Even his move to Palestine in 1931, he declared, with the better lighting conditions. Under this light everything comes to the fore: his own drama, his expressionist camera man views and his Belief that you can’t give a man with only a single image. In the “metamorphosis through light” loses the face of its objectivity, will be transformed into an incredible phenomenon. In this metamorphosis, there is a whole spectrum of roles, but not psychology. The head behaves like a Planet, and the photographer provides the dramatic demiurge of the sky light.