1961 - 1975
5 November - 7 December 2013
Opening: Tuesday, 05 November 2013 at 7 p.m.
At 6 p.m the author will give a guided tour to the exhibition.
Tihomir Pinter is now known primarily for his »ironwork photography« and portraits of Slovenian artists, while his early works are virtually unknown to a wider public. His contemporaries perhaps saw them, because they were, except one at the present exhibition, at the time of their creation awarded prizes and presented at photographic competition exhibitions organised by the Photographic Association of Yugoslavia. This time they are for the first time exhibited independently.
The term vintage in photography denotes a photography made at the time the picture was taken or up to 5 years later, which is generally accepted time limit. They are very appreciated by collectors, as such photographs present artists' original and earliest interpretation. Because they are made with photographic materials that temporally coincide with the picture taken, they are valued also for purely technical properties in connection with the making of a photograph (e.g. the modern photographic papers for making photographs with wet process differ from the old ones in silver halides content, photographs made with the materials available today are not exactly the same as those made 50 years ago).
Besides the photographer's original interpretation, they also provide a proof of quality of photograph-making, as slovenly made photographs do not stand the test of time – they turn yellow, fade etc.
Pinter, who always makes his own photographs, is as a chemist well aware of the chemical properties of the material he uses and the consequences of their inconsistent use. The exhibited photographs are from 4 to 5 decades old, yet remain unaffected by time, except for their inevitable patina – the black is softened.
The early works
An insight into the work of a young artist who tests and follows the beaten track before he beats his own is undoubtedly interesting: insecurities, searches and joyful discoveries of fragments from which in the following years »Pinter« will be made.
In 1961, five years after he took up photography, he for the first time exhibited some of his photographs. The oldest photograph at the exhibition also dates back to 1961, the selection then presents photographs from the first 15 years of his regular participation at exhibitions organised by photo clubs.
Tihomir Pinter was born into a house of photography – his father and later also his brother were photographers, while he himself as a child whiled away the time by watching father's photographs on glass. No wonder he too wanted a camera, he got one when he was 18. From then on he takes photos. He is a self-taught photographer who has from his early teens regularly visited exhibitions of visual art and actively contemplates what he has seen. When he was attending secondary school in Ljubljana, he was enraptured with the ironwork photography of Slavko Smolej.
He studied photography also as an active member of the following photo clubs: Sarajevo (1958-60), Zagreb (1960-65), Smederevo (1965-68), Belgrade (1968-70) and Ljubljana (from 1970 he is a member of Fotogrupa ŠOLT). The photographers of the pre-war generations, even the greatest world-names, had no education in photography, as it did not exist back then.
In the period after the Second World War, organised photographic activities in Slovenia and the former Yugoslavia were conducted primarily in photo clubs. The latter were very active in the field of education (presenting and analysing the work of their members, providing access to photographic literature – books, magazines with topical issues in the field of photography), and in the field of organising photographic competitions and exhibitions, they also offered a possibility to obtain titles within the Photographic Association of Yugoslavia. Thus there was no institutional formal education within the school system, yet the Photographic Association of Yugoslavia bestowed the title Master of Photography to a photographer who was selected in competitions for exhibitions organised by them and consequently exhibited at least fifty works. The exhibited works had to belong to different genres and the author had to display the command of the medium – both of which is characteristic for Pinter's early works.
Obtaining the title Master was then the only school, and the most successful photo amateurs become successful professionals (e.g. Tone Stojko, Joco Žnidaršič, Janez Pukšič, Dragan Arrigler, Božidar Dolenc, Miško Kranjec and many others).
Some starting points of Pinter's photography
He does not like flash and does not use it, he makes use of the available light.
When he creates images, he places most importance on the composition.
He does not strictly follow the principles of »straight photography«, which emphasises the absence of manipulation, framing with a camera (black rim), and which in the 70's influenced the modernist aesthetics of photography. It allows framing of an image by a cut out of an original shot, manipulations in a darkroom is reduced to minimum.
He makes his own photographs. To him, the work in a darkroom is both very important and creative. A mere shot is not a photography which presents the author's vision in its entirety. What counts is the final image on a photographic paper with selected tint values.
Besides »ironwork photography«, Pinter was in his early period of photographing also occupied with street photography, photographers in Yugoslavia then preferred the term »life photography«.
The latter deals with the life outside studios, i.e. mankind, society. It contains elements of spontaneity, it is devoid of the predictable manipulative nature of studio photography. Some »street« photographers are of the opinion that a photograph should be genuine, not staged, and taken without a prior consent of the person photographed. If persons are allowed to enter and leave the scene as they please, a shot can be taken everywhere. The development of »street photography« is closely connected with the emergence of small, portable and fast enough cameras in the beginning of the 20th century, while it was blooming in the early 70's of the 20th century.
Pinter's approach to photography was very systematic from the beginning, he always prepared an essay on a selected theme, e.g. everyday life on the street, the homeless, people at work, the saltpan of Sečovlje, hop plantations in the Savinja valley, a visit to a Romani settlement, portraits of ironworkers in various ironworks across Yugoslavia, details of objects in ironworks ...
The variety of motifs in his early period was conditioned also by acquiring the only available degree, the title Master of Photography. In order to get it, he had to prove that he has a command of the medium, that he masters different genres and the making of a photograph. »I photographed everything«, he says. Some photographic themes also depended on the current technological development, e.g. on accessibility of telephoto lenses, which was not generally accessible before the 70's, on the testing of graphic film – low sensitivity, contrast raster film.
Regardless of the selected motif, the foreground of his images constantly display two main characteristics, two main personal interests, the essence of his photographic view.
As a photographer, Pinter likes to monitor people at work. He began with ironwork photography and by accident took up portraying painters in their studios. When photographing, he did not discriminate, photographing painters was to him the same as photographing workers in ironworks, only the light in ironworks was much more unpredictable and evasive. Among his early works are also many street photographs. Portraits in which the portrayed person flirts with the photographer and directs his look to the lenses are in his early period rather an exception and not a rule. He prefers to take a shot when people are not aware of his presence. Pinter thus prevents the gaze of portrayed persons from taking the central role, the protagonist blends with another language, the one which is for Pinter of the greatest importance. The language of elements of arts – creating composition with shapes, relations between light and shadows, rhythm, spatial arrangements, proportions, texture ... – is for him a sine qua non. When motifs are inherently narrative, documentary (a homeless man in the street, costermongers ...), visual means of expression dominate the image to such extent that they interpret reality. In the photograph of a costermonger counting money the baskets create rhythm, the protagonist is in golden ratio; the photograph of a man weaving baskets is dominated by shape, lines, rhythm; in the photograph of a housing project the story is told by the rhythm, the proportions between the buildings and the man, graphicness.
In the photographs of rather boring iron semi-products and objects isolated from their environment Pinter's use of elements of art provides these objects with a story, adds a character to impersonal semimanufactures (hop poles become a completely geometrised abstract image, a field of blossoming buckwheat becomes fields of proportions between tint values, cold metal is enlivened, it becomes organic etc.).
The protagonists in Pinter's images, living and inanimate, always follow the rules of composition, the latter creates a story by relations between the selected photographed elements.
Henri Cartier-Bresson was of a similar opinion, he maintained that photography was »recognising the order«, when asked what makes a good composition, he answered: »Geometry«. Pinter, too, says that composition is the most important part of photography.
According to Szarkowski, photography is a system of visual editing. Pinter's visual editing has been since the very beginning striving toward the geometry of solitude. He knows how to find solitary quiet details in noisy ironworks, when he portrays people at work, he prefers to remain an unseen, solitary observer. In his photographs he »embodies his conceptions about a photographic image as a revelation of hidden (aesthetic) values.
The exhibition Vintage is only one of the exhibitions in 2013 on the occasion of the author's 75th birthday. The Museum of Gorenjska in April prepared the exhibition of photographic portraits of the recipients of the Prešeren Award for Literature, it was titled Literary creators – recipients of the Prešeren Award, the Kočevje Regional Museum in June prepared the exhibition Portraits, while the Slovenian Cultural Centre in Vienna is in November preparing the exhibition of portraits under the auspices of Korotan – the Slovenian cultural and scientific centre in Vienna.
Tihomir Pinter has had many exhibitions, yet his archives contain a lot of interesting and unseen material.