Sonja Braas

Forces # 23, 2003

C-print/Diasec, 140 x 120 cm
Collection Fotomuseum Winterthur
Inv. no. 2004-006-002
© Sonja Braas

Sonja Braas
b. 1968 (Siegen, DE), lives and works in New York, US

Sonja Braas exposes us to the power of nature. Most of her photographs in her Forces series show nature at its wildest, with water, snow and rocks. Everything seems to be either in motion or petrified, frozen, and covered with ice and snow. We see no horizon. Our gaze is drawn directly into the (extreme) state of things and finds nowhere to rest; we have no sense of when or where or what is happening to us. We seem to be left entirely at the mercy of “nature”, although Sonja Braas is actually playing a representational game with us. It is unclear which pictures have been taken outdoors and which images have been generated in the studio. Braas quite blatantly juxtaposes the two, thereby presenting not only nature itself, but the image and idea of nature: erosion within and before the image. It is a process that creates many unsettling moments. The finer the differences between nature and “nature”, the more similar are the feelings triggered by looking at the different realities. We find ourselves in the midst of the elements, in the fog and the sea spray. And yet, with some exceptions, these pictures do not play the game of German Romanticism, in which the soul expands and suffers the melancholy of fragmentation and alienation from the grand scheme of existence. Instead, in Sonja Braas’ work, we become like figures in a Géricault painting, stranded on a raft, tossed by a seething, roiling ocean, abandoned to the powers and erosive forces of “nature”.