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4 minute read



Elger Esser is one of the most recognized living German landscape photographers. Raised in Rome, he studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Bernd and Hilla Becher. Becher was a significant influence on Elger Esser, and you can see traces of Becher's style in Esser's work. However, Esser has developed his unique approach to photography.

His work often focuses on specific locations, and he has photographed in many different countries, including Italy, France, Portugal, and Egypt. His images are usually relatively large-scale and are filled with a great deal of detail. It allows the viewer to explore the scene and feel as though they are transported to another place. In addition, his use of light and colour creates an almost ethereal feeling in his pieces. 

Beauduc IV, Frankreich, 2009, Elger Esser


His work is characterized by a reduced formal idiom and intense colouring. The motifs of Elger Esser's photographs are often taken from his immediate environments, such as his hometowns and travels. The photographer's use of light and shadow is also essential in his work. He often uses a long exposure time, giving his images a sense of calm and peacefulness. It makes them even more dreamlike and allows the viewer to escape their everyday life for a moment.

Through his artistry, Esser captures poetic and introspective scenes merging landscape with notions of emotional memory and reminiscing the historical relationship between painting and photography. Esser's signature is an original take on contemporary photographic craftsmanship absorbed while studying in Düsseldorf in the 1990s under Bernd Becher's tutelage. 


L'Acrouest II, Frankreich, 2003, Elger Esser

Esser re-examines the technological foundations of photography, frequently revisiting early photomechanical techniques and products. It includes experimenting with heliogravure, silver gelatine prints, and the popular postcard format. His work draws inspiration from early Masters of Photography, the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century and Romantic artists of the 19th century.

Through his work, the visitor encounters pictures that reflect Esser's innovative printing methods, such as silver-coated copper plates. Esser looks back on tradition and the craft of German artist Adam Elsheimer, whose works were frequently painted on copper bases in the 17th century. It results in delicate tonal shifts, where a diffused golden light enfolds sky, water and land, fully illuminated by the plate's tones.

In his landscape pictures, the artist frequently depicts bodies of water. Rivers and lakes are the focal points of idyllic rural sceneries of shadowy seascapes that feature vast skies and far-off coastlines. Esser describes his work with the phrase "the element of our existence" to refer to water as a metaphor for being simultaneously a source of life and death. Esser's images are usually described as transcending time and space, connecting past and present. 


Esser's work has been displayed in galleries and museums all over the world, such as the Foundation Herzog in Basel, Switzerland, in 2004; the Haggerty Museum of Art in Milwaukee, USA, in 2006; the Gana Art Center in Seoul, South Korea, in 2006; the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA, in 2007; the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2016; the Fondazione Stelline in Milan, Italy, in 2017; the Landesgalerie in Linz among many others. His outstanding work is part of notable collections like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunstmuseum, Stuttgart; Kunsthalle Karlsruhe; Kunsthaus Zürich; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. 

If you'd like to discover the works of Elger Esser come visit us: Nüschelerstrasse 31, Zurich - or check out his works online: 


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