From Gerhard Richter ‘A Life in Painting’ [Dietmar Elger – English translation, University of Chicago Press, 2009]
“During the 1972 Venice Biennale, Richter tried once more to explain why photography had come to mean so much for his painting.
“ ‘Because I was surprised by photography, which we all use massively every day. Suddenly I saw it in a new way as a picture that offered me a new view, free of all the conventional criteria I had always associated with art. It had no style, no composition, no judgement. It freed me from personal experience. For the first time there was nothing to it; pure picture.’
“The dialogue between painting and photography is as old as photography itself. The fearful predictions of the French history painter Paul Delaroche, who believed that photography would be the death of painting…never quite came to pass, though there is no question that the two mediums have competed and profoundly affected each other in both theory and practice. It was not long after the invention of the photograph that the medium took on and even bettered some of the functions of painting; whether in portraiture, the recording of cityscapes or scientific illustration, it at least seemed to offer greater objectivity and precision….
“In fact, the practice of photography served to embolden painting, even helping to pave the way to abstraction.”
… “As many have noted, artistic engagement with photography has prompted or inspired all sorts of critical questions regarding objectivity, manipulation, authenticity and cliché in photographic perception, aura and its loss as a result of unlimited mechanical reproducibility and the suggestive potential of photographs as reproduced images in the mass media.”
…“As an artist in the 1960s, Richter did not question the objectivity and authenticity of photography itself (this in a day before digital imaging). Indeed he has always worked to transfer the attributes and vocabulary of photographs into painting. He said in a 1972 interview with the journalist Rolf Schon:
“‘I’m not trying to imitate a photograph, I’m trying to make one. And if I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light, then I am practicing photography by other means; I’m not producing paintings that remind you of a photograph but producing photographs.’
“Richter intends on the one hand to undermine representation painting but on the other hand, to rescue it from the turbulent discourse surrounding artistic practice during the second half of the twentieth century…he transfers the fundamentals of photography, a relatively unburdened medium to the painted representation.”