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Sensuality, identity and Buddhism: Hans Georg Berger's new book and exhibition

New exhibition the learning photographer by Hans Georg Berger
(Image credit: Hans Georg Berger / 29 Arts in Progress)

A new exhibition from renowned German photographer, Hans Georg Berger, is now open until 16 July 2022 hosted at the 29 Arts in Progress Gallery in Milan. ‘The Learning Photographer’ brings together more than 30 sophisticated black-and-white printed photographs, carefully selected by the directors of the gallery and the artist.

Accompanying the exhibition is a book launch that celebrates the 50-year career of Berger, with accurate reproductions of 75 of his best images accompanied by poetic material and texts from famous writers and figures whom influenced Berger.  

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Hans Georg Berger, born 1951, is best known for his photography exploring both intimate and cultural identities, including representation of Buddhism. Berger’s approach to contemporary photography is based on the ethical centrality of the subject, undertaking an extraordinary journey with them. 

In 1975 he carried out his first collaboration with artist Joseph Beuys, whose profound works and political ideas would greatly influence Berger's photography. Another important artistic influence to Berger was the French writer, photographer, journalist, critic and filmmaker Hervé Guibert, with whom he worked for 12 years.

The new art book will feature some never before seen photos, including those from his delicate series, 'Un Amour Photographique'. The exhibition at the 29 Arts in Progress Gallery (opens in new tab) is the German artist’s first major retrospective in Milan.

(Image credit: Hans Georg Berger / 29 Arts in Progress)
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'Un Amour Photographique' is a photo series that details the pivotal meeting between himself and Hervé Guibert that took place in 1978, while Berger was working as the director of the Munich Theater Festival. 

This photo series recounts the photographic as well as intellectual relationship between the two friends, in an intimate dialogue that saw the two taking turns behind the lens, emerging was art that Berger describes as “shared photography”.

“Our project was unusual, distinctive: we decided that the object of our research would be to portray ourselves, mutually, on a journey, or rather, perhaps, in an exploration of intimacy," described Berger. "For us, the mutual portrait was the hub of a broader aesthetic reflection on the meaning and value of portraits and self-portraits.

(Image credit: Hans Georg Berger / 29 Arts in Progress)
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"On the other hand, taking photographs of Hervé – who was a mysterious, complex person – was a refined way of understanding him, of getting closer to him, sometimes reaching the most intimate closeness. In this sense, photography inevitably became an emotional instrument, perhaps also a sentimental one."

Guibert sadly died from AIDS in 1991 after releasing over 25 novels and short narratives that have been published, as well as a series of exhibitions of his photographic work through Europe.

(Image credit: Hans Georg Berger / 29 Arts in Progress)
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The art book and exhibition are also set to feature precious photographs of Berger’s arrival at a monastery in Luang Prabang in 1995. A long-lasting collaboration was had between monk and photographer that led to the curation of  an exceptional series of portraits by Berger, documenting daily life at monasteries and the different phases and postures of meditation, spiritual ceremonies and community rituals.

“I told to a young abbot that if they accepted me as a disciple, I would be able to document that living tradition, from the beginning to the end, by means of photography. My goal, I added, was not to capture images to be sold on the market, but rather to produce a life testimony that could put the monks in the forefront as protagonists of the religious life of the city and reveal the richness of their ceremonial practice.”

(Image credit: Hans Georg Berger / 29 Arts in Progress)
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Additionally, Berger’s photo series documenting the restoration of a small monastery in the north-east of the Island of Elba, known as 'The Eremo of Santa Caterina' will be displayed in the exhibition, including work from other series such as 'Sensuality, The Discipline of Beauty and Meditation and Knowledge'. 

(Image credit: Hans Georg Berger / 29 Arts in Progress)
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The new art book titled Hans Georg Berger is available for purchase now directly from 29 Arts in Progress (opens in new tab) for £100 / $100, in both English and Italian editions and personally signed by the artist.

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Beth Nicholls
Beth Nicholls

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.