Thomas Struth, German photographer who studied with Gerhard Richter and Bernhard Becher. He has been exploring how people look at art for 20 years. This series of views of views, Making time, was sited in the Prado, as always, the technique and format are of the architectural photography type; large format camera, tripod, perspective correction, large depth of field, but the subjects are the people, living and painted and their varied gazes. The art (Velasquez) is re-animated. One can imagine how self consious one would feel looking at these in situ, as you yourself get drawn into the narrative as one more layer.
The huge scale of Struth's photographs and the richness of their colour and detail bring them close to paintings, something of an inversion of his tutor Richter who's paintings have a photographic quality. Struth's photographs from the Accademia in Florence look at people viewing Michelangelo's David. Some adopt similar poses, some look at others looking, some are absorbed, we are seeing them from the point of view of the statue itself, again the art is given a new life. He explores both the collective and individual experience of looking and seeing. Interestingly it is only in the presence of something so impressive that you would be able to take people's picture without any self consiousness, they don't seem to notice the photographer.
There is something about artists who examine the philosophy of their medium that makes for long term critical importance but sometime popular apathy, the critics will always obsess over it because it complements them, it is about what they do. Not just photographs about photography but paintings about painting (Picasso, Cezanne, Velasquez), Films about film making (Robert Altman, Woody Allen, Fellini, Hitchcock) Writing about writing (Charlie Kaufman, James Wood, Joyce, Proust) Theatre about theatre (Stoppard, Beckett) etc. etc. They all speak with unique authority but is it sometimes self indulgent?