Elger Esser (German, b.1967) is a photographer best known for his large-format meditative landscapes. Born in Stuttgart but raised in Rome, Esser moved back to Germany in 1986, where he worked as a commercial photographer until 1991. He then enrolled at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he studied with famous photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher (German, 1931–2007; b.1934). Although influenced by the Becher’s Conceptual teachings, Esser never adopted the grid pattern characteristic of their work, and his photographs sharply depart from the industrial and architectural subject matter praised by the Bechers and adopted by many of their protégés.

Esser’s landscapes are unmanipulated and simple in their composition; earth, air, and water become almost unidentifiable in images created using long exposures. Many of his works explore the indefinite expanse of the horizon. His images of bodies of water and their reflections exaggerate this expanse, reinforcing and extending the line where earth and sky meet. Low horizon lines, muted color schemes, and vast overcast skies offer a romanticized depiction of natural beauty in its purest state. Even in light of very specific titles, Esser’s works remain ambivalent and obscure, which serve to evoke a nostalgic response from viewers. He has had solo exhibitions at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bologna, Italy, the Kunstverein in Hagen, Germany, and at the Herzog Foundation in Basel, among other European venues. Esser’s photographs are in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, and the Alrbright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY. He lives and works in Düsseldorf.

Timeline

1967
Born in Stuttgart, Germany
1969–1986
Raised in Rome, Italy
1996
Student of Master Class
1991–1997
Studies at Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, master class of Prof. Bernd Becher
1997
Academy diploma
1998
Foreign DAAD-travel grant 'Italy'
1998
Recipient, Supporting award for Art Düsseldorf
1998
Supporting area Art Cologne (Gallery Inge Friebe)
1998
Recipient, DAAD-travelling award, Italy
1998
Advancement award of Fine Arts of the city of Düsseldorf, Germany
2001
Deutsches Studienzentrum Venice
2008
Visiting Professor of Photography at Folkwang Hochschule Essen
2006–2009
Professor of Photography at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe, Germany
2010
Rheinischer Kunstpreis
2012
Fellowship Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK), Institute for Advanced Study, Delmenhorst, Germany
Lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany

Exhibitions

2014
One Work. The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA
2014
Temporary living. Galerie de Zaal, Delft, The Netherlands
2014
Una Colección Basada en la Naturaleza y el medio ambiente. Colección MP de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain
2014
Home (Very) Sweet Home, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
2014
Elger Esser: Ab Olympo, Galleria Alessandra Bonomo, Rome, Italy (solo)
2014
Elger Esser, Fundació Palma Espai d'art, Casal Solleric, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (solo)
2014
Elger Esser, Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, Germany (solo)
2013
Exposition photographique: Eaux précieuses – Eaux sauvages, Galerie d’art du Conseil général, Hôtel de Castillon, Aix-en-Provence, France
2013
Il Fuoco Della Natura / The Flash of Nature, Salone degli Incanti, ex Pescheria, Trieste, Italy
2013
Les Territoires du désir ou les métamorphoses d’un musée imaginaire,
 Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux, MuMa, Le Havre, France
2013
Kalte Rinden - Seltene Erden, Stadtgalerie Kiel, Germany
2013
Meseglise, Institut für Moderne Kunst, Nürnberg, Germany (solo)
2013
Desaster / The End of Days, Galerie Taddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
2013
OLD SCHOOL Anachronismus in der zeitgenössischen Kunst, Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Germany
2013
Elger Esser. Giverny, Heliogravuren, Schirmer und Mosel, München (solo)
2013
Nocturens à Giverny. Photographies de Elger Esser, Galerie Photo du Pôle Image Haute-Normandie, Rouen, France (solo)
2012
Lichte Weite, LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany (solo)
2012
Galleria Alessandra Bonomo, Rome (solo)
2012
Katz Contemporary, Zurich (solo)
2012
Stille Wellen, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany (solo)
2012
‚Kalte Rinden - Seltene Erden’, Stadtgalerie Kiel, Germany
2012
‚Les Territoires du désir ou les métamorphoses d’un musée imaginaire’,
 Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux, MuMa, Le Havre, France
2012
‚Il Fuoco Della Natura / The Flash of Nature’, Salone degli Incanti, ex Pescheria, Trieste, Italy
2012
‚Exposition photographique: Eaux précieuses – Eaux sauvages’, Galerie d’art du Conseil général, Hôtel de Castillon, Aix-en-Provence, France
2012
Sonnabend Gallery, New York (solo)
2012
Galeria Kewenig, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (solo)
2012
ILEANA SONNABEND. AN ITALIAN PORTRAIT. Peggy Guggenheim Collection – New Wing, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Venice, Italy
2012
light-sensitive – Contemporary Photography from the Schaufler Collection, Schauwerk Sindelfingen, Sindelfingen
2012
La ciudad magnífica. Arquitecturas en la colección CIRCA-XX Pilar Citoler, The Andalusian Centre of Photography, Almería, Spain
2012
Welt-(er)-findung, zeitgenössische Photographie - Collection Olbricht, Kunsthaus Villa Jauss, Oberstdorf, Germany
2012
Les Territoires du désir ou les métamorphoses d’un musée imaginaire', Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux - MuMa, Le Havre, France
2011–2012
Voyage en Egypte, Rose Gallery, Santa Monica, USA (solo)
2011
Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, Australia (solo)
2011
Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon (solo)
2011
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France (solo)
2011
Kunstforum Baloise, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
2011
Kunst befreit! Neupräsentation der Sammlung. Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany
2011
‚Les Territoires du désir ou les métamorphoses d’un musée imaginaire', Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux - MuMa, Le Havre, France
2011
‚light-sensitive – Contemporary Photography from the Schaufler Collection’, Schauwerk Sindelfingen, Sindelfingen, Germany
2011
‚La ciudad magnífica. Arquitecturas en la colección CIRCA-XX Pilar Citoler’, The Andalusian Centre of Photography, Almería, Spain
2011
Nocturnes, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France (solo)
2011
Elger Esser - Landscapes and heliogravures, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney, Australia (solo)
2011
Water, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium
2011
Collezioni Contemporanee, SMS Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, Italy
2011
Viaggio in Italia, sguardi internazionali sull’Italia contemporanea, Palazzo Fabroni, Pistoia, Italy
2011
Der rote Bulli: Stephan Shore und die neue Düsseldorfer Fotografie, NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft, Düsseldorf, Germany
2011
ZERO - ∞. Schauwerk Sindelfingen, Sindelfingen, Germany
2010
Landschaften-Veduten-Ansichten-Heliogravüren, Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
2010
ELGER ESSER, Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, Germany (solo)
2010
EIGENTJD-ELGER ESSER, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Arnhem, Holland (solo)
2010
Eigenzeit, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany (Solo)
2010
Sonnabend Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
2010
Photobiennale Moscow, Exhibition Hall New Manege, Moscow, Russia (solo)
2010
Der rote Bulli: Stephan Shore und die neue Düsseldorfer Fotografie, NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft, Düsseldorf, Germany
2010
Viaggio in Italia, sguardi internazionali sull’Italia contemporanea, Palazzo Fabroni, Pistoia, Italy
2010
Collezioni Contemporanee, SMS Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, Italy
2010
Konstellationen, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria
2010
Sin Tiempo, Galería Fúcares, Madrid, Spain (solo)
2010
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria (solo)
2010
Et in Arcadia Ego. Paraísos cercanos, TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
2010
The Düsseldorf School of Photography. Bernd & Hilla Becher, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer, In Sook Kim, Elger Esser, Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, USA
2010
IMAGINÁRIO DA PAISAGEM. Obras da BesArt - colecção Banco Espírito Santo, CAV Centro de artes Visuais, Encontros de Fotografia, Coimbra, Portugal
2010
ZERO - ∞. Schauwerk Sindelfingen, Sindelfingen, Germany
2009
Les Rencontres Photographiques d’Arles, Arles, France (solo)
2009
Elger Esser, Eigenzeit, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany (solo)
2009
Voyages pittoresques. Normandie 1820-2009, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen, Le Château - Caen, France
2009
Sonnabend Gallery, NY (solo)
2009
‚6 views of photography’, Galerie de Zaal, Delft, Netherlands
2009
Saône et Rhône, Exhibition on the occasion of Paris Photo, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France (solo)
2009
Galeria Bonomo, Bari, Italy (solo)
2009
Wrecks and Landscapes, Sonnabend Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
2009
Six American Sunsets, Dominik Mersch Gallery, Waterloo, Australia (solo)
2009
TAGO - MAGO, Galería Fúcares, Almagro & Espacio de arte Hospital de San Juan de Dios. Almagro, Spain (group)
2009
Voyages pittoresques, Normandie 1820-2009, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen, Le Château - Caen, France (group)
2009
Siedlungen und Wohnanlagen 1858-1937, Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf, Germany
2009
Fotos que ver en Madrid cuando aún no estés muerto...de calor, Galería Fúcares, Madrid, Spain
2008
Objectivités. La photographie à Düsseldorf, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris / ARC, Paris, France
2008
untitled (photography), Galerie Tanit, Munich, Germany
2008
Pures Wasser. Elementares Motiv der Gegenwartskunst, Kunstverein Villa Streccius, Landau, Germany
2008
Galleria Alessandra Bonomo, Rome, Italy (solo)
2008
Johnen+Schöttle, Cologne, Germany (solo)
2008
FO.KU.S - Foto Kunst Stadtforum, Innsbruck, Germany (solo)
2008
Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut, Lebanon (group)
2008
Combray, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France
2007
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida (solo)
2007
Seestücke, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany
2007
Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
2007
Ileana Sonnabend, New York, NY (solo)
2007
Sonnabend Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
2006
Landscapes and Postcards, Haggarty Museum of Art, Milwaukee, USA (solo)
2006
Important early photographs, Thomas Segal Gallery, Baltimore, USA (solo)
2006
Galeria Fúcares, Madrid, Spain (solo)
2006
Johnen+Schöttle Gallery, Munich, Germany (solo)
2006
Kunstraum Deutsche Bank, 2006 (solo)
2006
Gana Art Center, Seoul (solo)
2005–2006
Fast Nichts. Minimalistische Werke aus der Friedrich Christian Flick Collection im Hamburger Bahnhof, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany
2005
Flight 405, Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Beirut, Lebanon
2005
dreamscapes, Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels
2005
Galerie Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne, Germany (solo)
2005
The City: Contemporary Views of the Built Enironment, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
2005
Landschaft als Metapher, Ursula Blickle Stiftung, Kraichtal, Germany
2005
Sonnabend Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2004
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria (solo)
2004
Fondation Herzog - Ein Laboratorium für Photographie, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
2004
Landschaften – Sonderausstellung zur KunstKöln, Cologne, Germany
2004
Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
2004
Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
2004
Art History: Photography References Painting, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY
2004
Vague II Hommages et digressions, Musée Malraux, Le Havre, France
2004
Imágenes en movimiento // Moving Pictures, Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain
2004
Landschaften – Sonderausstellung zur KunstKöln, Cologne, Germany
2003
Sonnabend Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2003
Galerie Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne, Germany (solo)
2003
Sonnabend Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
2003
Galerie Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne, Germany (solo)
2003
Kunsthalle Rostock, Rostock, Germany (solo)
2003
Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, Germany (solo)
2003
Kunsthalle Rostock, Rostock, Germany (solo)
2003
Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, Germany (solo)
2003
Schirmer/Mosel Showroom, Munich, Germany (solo)
2003
Marco Voena, Milan, Italy (solo)
2002
Galleria Alessandra Bonomo, Rome, Italy (solo)
2002
Cityscapes/Landscapes, Palazzo delle Papesse, Siena, Italy (solo)
2002
Galerie Sfeier-Semler, Hamburg, Germany (Solo)
2002
Aus Düsseldorf, Baronian-Francey Galerie, Brussels, Belgium
2002
10 young german artists, Galerie de Zaal, Delft, Netherlands
2002
Biennale der Fotografie, Moscow, Russia
2002
Wallflowers, Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland
2002
In Szene gesetzte Architektur, ZKM Karlsruhe/Stadtische Galerie Erlangen/Kunsthaus Kaufbeuren
2002
Galerie De Zaal, Delft, The Netherlands
2002
Interieur, Galerie Andreas Grimm, Munich, Germany
2002
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, France (solo)
2001
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria (solo)
2001
Château de Sully, Sully sur Loire, France (solo)
2001
Johnen & Schöttle, Cologne (mit | with Candice Breitz), Germany
2001
Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art, London, England (solo)
2001
Chrisitna Doll, Elger Esser Michael van Ofen, Galerie Sfeier Semler, Hamburg, Germany
2001
Ohne Zögern, Sammlung Olbricht, Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen, Germany
2001
Retrospective, Sonnabend Gallery, New York, NY
2001
Galleria de Arte Moderne Villa delle Rose, Bologna, Italy (Solo)
2001
Ileana Sonnabend, New York, NY (Solo)
2000
Alte Feuerwache Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany (Solo)
2000
Galerie Inge Friebe Lüdenscheid, Germany (Solo)
2000
Galerie 213, Paris, France
2000
Galerie de Zaal, Delft, Netherlands
2000
Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, Germany (with Candice Breitz)
2000
Retrospective, Sonnabend Gallery, New York, NY
2000
Friesland is …, Friesmuseum, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
2000
Landscapes - Portraits, Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art, London, England
2000
Landscapes - Portraits, Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art, London, England
2000
Friesland is …, Friesmuseum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
1999
neg-gallery, Milan, Italy (solo)
1999
Lawrence Beck, Elger Esser, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ileana Sonnabend Gallery, New York, USA
1999
Landschaften, Galerie Carolin Lindig, Nuremberg, Germany
1999
Landschaften, de Vleeshal, Middelburg, The Netherlands
1999
insight-out, Kunstraum Innsbruck / Kunsthaus Baselland / Kunsthaus Hamburg, Austria and Germany
1999
New Photography, Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY
1999
VISA, Galerie Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne, Germany
1999
Andreas Grimm Galerie, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (solo)
1999
Massimo Lauro Galleria, Milan, Italy (Solo)
1998
Galerie Marion de Beaupre, Paris, France (Solo)
1998
Alte Post Neuss, Neuss, Germany (solo)
1998
Umgebung und Aussicht, Galerie Cora Hölzl, Düsseldorf, Germany
1998
When season becomes form, Kulturallianzen Cologne, Germany
1998
Kunstraum Düsseldorf (Advancement Award of Fine Arts), Düsseldorf, Germany (solo)
1998
Umgebung und Aussicht, Galerie Cora Hölzl, Düsseldorf / Galerie Lisl Hämmerle, Bregenz Landschaftsbilder, Städtische Galerie Stuttgart, Germany
1998
Galerie 213, Paris, France (solo)
1998
Galerie Inge Friebe, Lüdenscheid, Germany (solo)
1998
Galerie de Zaal, Delft, Netherlands (mit | with Michel Sauer)
1998
Kunstverein Siegen, Germany (solo)
1997
Andreas Grimm Galerie, Palma de Mallorca, Spain (solo)
1997
Kunstverein Hagen, Hagen, Germany (solo)
1997
ARToll Labor Bedburg-Hau, Germany
1996
Auslöser, Düsseldorf, Germany
1995
Kulturbahnhof Eller, Germany (solo)
1995
Projektausstellung Siedlungen in Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany (solo)
1994
Idus Nemorensis Nemi, Italy

Public Collections

Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna
DZ Bank Kunstsammlung, Frankfurt, Germany
SMS Contemporanea, ex Palazzo Delle Papesse, Siena, Italy
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany
Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich
Fonds national d’art contemporain, Paris
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany
Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany