Austrian photographer Renate Graf has drawn wide acclaim and respect for her powerful body of work, which could be described as a form of poetic documentation where image wavers on the edge of language.
Indeed, it was a passion for literature and poetry that led Renate Graf to devote herself to photography. The reading of authors such as Fernando Pessoa, Rainer Maria Rilke, Tagore, T. S. Eliot, Edmond Jabès, Paul Valéry, and Hermann Broch called forth images in her mind, which she sought to capture through photography.
The camera began to accompany the artist on far-flung travels, as a witness to her nomadic journeys to South India, Morocco, China, Alaska, Russia, Yemen, Cambodia, Italy, and Germany—her own writing and numerous literary references melding with the images.
She began creating travel notebooks with her photos, to which she associated excerpts from chosen texts, writing them out in longhand. These are artist's testimonies to the wonderment of travel, akin to the sketched notebooks of Delacroix in Morocco, or the diaries of Frieda Kahlo—a mixture of narrative and art.
The process gained impetus, giving rise to larger format books, hand-bound by the artist herself. With time she felt the need to create larger format images, which she developed in the darkroom using traditional techniques.
Today, the photography of Renate Graf is recognized for its distinctive chimerical quality combined with the formal austerity of the pictorial composition, which characterizes her works.
Several important museum shows have been devoted to her oeuvre. Most recently, « Going back in Time and the Silk Roads » at The House of Photography in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which opened in March 2021, evinces the universal reach of her images. An important retrospective at the gallery Rui Freire in Lisbon in 2019, « The photographer's Chronicles: Thoughts become Images,» displayed the extraordinary richness of her photographic language and nuanced black and white palette.
Her works are coveted in prestigious private and public collections worldwide.
About her work, Renate Graf says: "I am not a photographer in the classical sense of the word; my images exist to serve a different purpose than that of any true photographer; they are not complete or conclusive. Nor are they perfect photographs in search of technical perfection. They function not only as images, but as language, as signs pointing to a meaning ... They do not define, they testify, and in the cultural diversity of a universe, they are a language in themselves, my language to describe what I see. "