In Bernhard Fuchs Roads and Paths, the vacant roads and byways of a rural region of Austria create lyrical metaphors for various aspects of life’s journey. Fuchs creates a sense of ambiguity at the moment of exposure; whereas the viewer is not certain if they are looking at the future of the journey to come or in the past, of the journey taken.
The photographs are metaphors for the journeys of one’s life, the seasonality, as well as the ups and downs. For me, the photographs of this book were at first perhaps a little too much of a cliché for this metaphor, thus it was necessary for me set it aside for a long while before the inclination to pick it up again for a deeper inspection.
The photographs are imbued with a type of light that portrays a sense of time, as stated by Heinz Liesbrock in the Afterword “In the pictures light remains indirect, all direct manifestations of the sun are avoided. It is a warm, almost human light. It has discreet quality that gives the pictures an unmistakable tone. Fuchs does not seek out the light at high noon, but in the intermediate zones, the morning and the late afternoon hours….moments of transition between the visible and hidden.”
Concrete and paved roads speak to a rigid and exacting journey that will lead to a known destination. I sense that these roadways can be symbolic of our youth, attending schools that have a very specific learning regime that will lead to graduation and then to a potential career; whether that be a carpenter, teacher, scientist or a business mogul. While the unpaved roads hint of rough trip, implying the potential difficulty, rough patches and travails to come. It is a bumpy journey, but perhaps more interesting.
The snowy road is a tale of the seasonal difficulties encountered on life’s journey, that it is not always easy and smooth sailing. The pathways enveloped in fog are symbolic of the uncertainty of life’s travels, not knowing what lies ahead. It could be a scary future or just beyond the dense layer of fog a clearing of blue sky and unlimited visibility. Fuchs reminds the viewer that during these times and circumstances the unknown lies ahead.
For me, the slightly worn pathway through the meadow talks to an infrequently journey, the relatively lesser known journey taken by an adventurer or an artist. This is the pathway of unknown possibilities, of exploring vague ideas that inherently have greater risks and corresponding, more interesting rewards. As you might suspect, the photographs of these faint pathways resonate most with me.
Fuchs raises the inevitable questions, what does the future hold? What are the stories that have come to pass?
The photobook has a cloth hardcover with a tipped in image on the front cover. The color plates, one per spread, each encased in a classic white margin, are printed on a soft luster paper that allow the photographs to display beautifully. The Afterward essay was provided by Heinz Liesbrock.