Werner Pawlok

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Werner Pawlok (born 1953 in Stuttgart) is a German artist and photographer known for his celebrity and art photography, especially for his work with the 20x24” Polaroid Camera.


Werner Pawlok started his first studio in 1977 as a self-taught photographer. In the same year he became a tutor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart.

Crying Monkey, 1992 © Werner Pawlok

In 1984 he became the first western photographer to work officially in East-Germany with East-German models. He collaborated with the Fashion Designer Helmut Lang on the project “Fashion in East-Berlin” published in magazines such as Wiener [1] and Style.

In 1985 Kodak commissioned Pawlok for the series “Around the World in 40 days” shown at the 1986 Photokina, Cologne in a solo exhibition.[2]

In 1988 he started working with the Polaroid 20x24” camera and moved to TriBeCa in New York City to work on his art projects. In the same year he invented the transfer technique using the 20x24” Polaroid Camera to start his series “Photography Paintings”. With this series Werner Pawlok emphasizes his intention to dispel the traditional categorisation separating photography from painting. The concept of the shots aims to evoke the style of European classical portrait painting but without imitating or even quoting it.[3][4]

In the same year Gunter Sachs became one of Pawlok’s first collectors.[5][6]

Also in 1988 Werner Pawlok photographed Leigh Bowery, an Australian performance artist.[7][8][9]

Following on, in 1989, was the “Transfers" series.[10][11] From Pawlok’s experimental handling of processes, techniques and image carrier media emerges a pictorial style that doesn’t need visual reference within reality. With "Transfers", the photographer becomes a painter. Faces and flowers are the most prevalent subjects. A large format Polaroid, which is transferred through a complex process to a heavy, rough-textured hand made paper or canvas, produces the image. The calculated exchange of the photochemical layer simultaneously combining with the amalgam of coincidence. Here, Pawlok is a painter and alchemist at the same time. Due to their so thoroughly induced metamorphoses into a new and singular pictorial space, the results of this manipulation could easily be named transmutations. Within the peculiar profundity these works radiate, the developing process seems to continue to have an effect. Their materiality reminds one of an artistic principle of modernity which doesn’t make use of pictorial means solely in order to express, but elevates them to be the purpose themselves. Pawlok´s unique Polaroids became part of the Polaroid Collection.[12][13]

In 1990 he began with his cycle "Stars & Paints" a series of one hundred 20x24" unique Polaroids of celebrities including Sir Peter Ustinov, John Malkovich, Roman Polanski, Dizzy Gillespie, Jean Paul Gaultier, Juliette Binoche and Jane Birkin. The desire to be someone else lights up the star-cult of our times. The step from the juggler on the ramp of a medieval fairground booth to the hype of the media world is much smaller than expected. The idea is ingenious and perfidious at the same time: They, the Stars, have engaged in this game, they slipped over on the banana skin that was handed to them. They can be given credit for this, the Stars, the real ones, because the memory of the, should we say, precarious origin of their prominence is still alive within the best. Maybe it is even the pleasure of a hide-and-seek game that tempts these people, whom we admire so much, to engage in the set that Werner Pawlok provides and that drives Pedro Almodóvar, director and connoisseur of the women, to “quote himself” or that causes John Malkovich, the ghost-lighting chameleon amongst the Hollywood actors, to reveal parts of his innermost self in front of this seemingly archaic camera. There is one image within the series, a self-portrait of the initiators of the project, in which some waggishness seems to be sparkling out of the picture. We, the viewers possibly benefit from a secret agreement between both the photographer and photographed person, which knows about the fragility of success on stage.[14][15]

In May 1992 Edition Domberger, published under the patronage of King Juan Carlos of Spain, and documenta IX, the edition COLUMBUS - IN SEARCH OF A NEW TOMORROW, featured the work of 37 artists including Joseph Beuys, Max Bill, Sandro Chia, Eduardo Chillida, Christo, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Longo, Antonio Tàpies and more. Werner Pawlok was part of the project with his Crying Monkey, portraying a monkey in a crucified position on golden leaves. In 1993 Werner Pawlok completed the series "Crying Animals" photographed with the 20x24" Polaroid camera.[16]

Also in 1992 Mercedes-Benz commissioned Pawlok to photograph their collection of classic cars, icons of motoring including the unique Silver Arrows racing cars driven by the likes of Fangio and Moss. For this, his "Master Pieces" series, he again used the 20x24" Polaroid camera, transferring the Polaroid negative film onto canvas and thus creating an impression similar to painting.[17]

In 1996 he started with the cycle of images named "Dantes Commedia", an interpretation of Dante Aligheri's Divina Commedia or Divine Comedy. The first time that Werner Pawlok produced a full series, of 33 pictures, using digital imaging. He does not illustrate the selected cantos, he rather conceptualises visionary image metaphors which reflect Dante’s verses with a resolute gesture but still develop their own vocabulary. Dante’s Inferno is cone shaped. On Pawloks transparent Cibachrome the image appears boosted, dynamic: a fervent maelstrom has seized it’s personnel and keeps it banished; on the other hand, the Catharsis Mountain exudes an ethereal fluidity which reminds us of the path of light which the poet walks on in his phantastic journey. Pawloks version is not trying to comment on the verses but seeks creative inspiration, an associative method that leads to precise image settings, which add themselves to an open series without joining a cohesive cycle.[18]

In 2000 he traveled Europe to photograph the project Stars for UNICEF, portraits of European Stars such as Ewan McGregor, Patricia Kaas, Andrzej Wajda, Nacho Duato and more.

2001 Pawlok participated in the exhibition tour Images beyond the Naked Eye, together with Duane Michals, Robert Lebeck, Sarah Moon, Sebastião Salgado and others.[19]

2002 Pawlok started his portrait cycle of "Views - Faces of Literature", a series of writers like, Martin Walser, T.C. Boyle, Henning Mankell, Amos Oz, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Ford, Salman Rushdie, Ian Rankin, Ken Follett, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, Siri Hustvedt, Leon de Winter, Jeffrey Eugenides and more. At the Kaufleuten, probably the best known club in Zurich, readings of contemporary writers from all over the world are a part of its program. There is limited time for Werner Pawlok and his project. It is always the same installation, a ring-flash and the camera with a Polaroid film. Always the same light too, which meets different ages, vistas and facial landscapes. Pawlok explains the procedure to Jonathan Franzen: Only two shots, pressing the release twice. One of the portraits is for the author, the other one becomes part of Pawlok’s contemporary writers series. A distance of only twenty centimeters separates the author and the camera. What does the face reveal of this life? The reactions towards the portraying situation vary: from easygoing to superior, and open but also irritated by this close look that searches for the way inside. “You are not going to look into my soul“, Franzen says arranging his glasses like a shield.[20][21]

2004 and 2013 he travels to Cuba to photograph for his series "Cuba - expired".[22] In his pictures Werner Pawlok tells about the morbid charm of an old Caribbean metropolis, showing a part of history by themselves. The splendour and misery of the Cuban utopia, the projector cubano, melt together so obviously in these abandoned palaces of the old sugar-aristocracy. Pawlok tracks this sunken world during his rambles through Havana.[23][24]




  1. ^ "Salut an alle, MARX". Wiener (72): 122–129. April 1986. 
  2. ^ Photo Design + Technik (3/86). 1986. 
  3. ^ "Photography Paintings". Polaroid 20x24". Dr. Thomas Buchsteiner. Retrieved 1988. 
  4. ^ From Polaroid to Impossible. Hatje Cantz. p. 46. ISBN 978-3-7757-3221-5. 
  5. ^ "Forbes". Forbes Magazin (March): 190–196. 1990. 
  6. ^ DER KUSS Maryam Sachs. Heyne. 1991. pp. 168–174. ISBN 3-453-04367-7. 
  7. ^ "Kultur". Oe1.orf.at. Retrieved 2013-12-10. 
  8. ^ "Da kann Lady Gaga noch viel lernen". Kurier.At. Retrieved 2013-12-10. 
  9. ^ Leigh Bowery. Violette Editions LONDON. 1998. pp. 108 + 109. ISBN 1-900828-04-9. 
  10. ^ Transfers. Edition Cantz. 1992. ISBN 3-89322-515-3. 
  11. ^ "Transfers". Polaroid 20x24. edition cantz. Retrieved 1989. 
  12. ^ http://www.photography-now.com/exhibition/details/75496
  13. ^ Emerging Bodies Nudes from the Polaroid Collection. Polaroid Collection + Edition Stemmle. 2000. p. 177. ISBN 3-908163-32-3. 
  14. ^ "Stars & Paints". Polaroid 20x24". Edition Braus. Retrieved 1990. 
  15. ^ Stars & Paints. Braus. 1997. ISBN 3-89466-182-8. 
  16. ^ domberger. "edition columbus". in search of a new tomorrow. domberger. Retrieved 1992. 
  17. ^ Master Pieces. Edition Cantz. 1992. ISBN 3-89-322-491-2. 
  18. ^ "Werner Pawlok´s Dante´s Comedia". b & w edition (14). 2000. 
  19. ^ "IMAGES BEYOND THE NAKED EYE". DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art. 2001-10-29. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 
  20. ^ "Werner Pawlok: Views - Faces Of LiteraturE". design-issue.com. 2013-11-28. Retrieved 2013-12-10. 
  21. ^ "Views - faces of literature". design-isue. Retrieved 2012. 
  22. ^ "Cuba expired". Vol I. Retrieved 2004. 
  23. ^ "Cuba expired". kaltblut magazine. Retrieved 2004/2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  24. ^ Collecting Fine Art. teNeues. 2013. pp. Cover & inside. ISBN 978-3-8327-9734-8. 
  25. ^ DZ BANK, ART FOYER. "Blütezeit". 
  26. ^ Hirschmann, Gallery. "HATS and HEADS". 
  27. ^ AUGENLUST. Kunsthaus Hannover. 1998. pp. 69, 86, 106, 107. ISBN 3-924747-87-3. 
  28. ^ "Photography Paintings by Werner Pawlok". 
  29. ^ PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE FAST LANE. Galerie Stadt Sindelfingen/WerkStadt. 2011. ISBN 3-928222-48-1. 

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