Nach Thaddäus Immler: Panorama vom Hohen Rad

since 2022

The reenactment of a series of historical photographs followed my research for L‘ANN: DAL SCARS , a case study for DISTURBED HARMONIES [ANTHROPOCENE LANDSCAPES]

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Axel Braun, Panorama vom Hohen Rad (2022/1887), UltraHD video, 00:09:00, 2024 (excerpt)

360-degree panorama superposed with Thaddäus Immler & Julius Ritter von Siegl, Panorama vom Hohen Rad 2934m, Th. Trautwein (Red.), Zeitschrift des Deutschen und Oesterreichischen Alpenverein, Jahrgang 1888. – Band XIX, München: 1888

Axel Braun, Panorama vom Hohen Rad (2022/1887), UltraHD video, 00:09:00, 2024 (still)

The project is a performative attempt to repeat a series of historical photographs by Thaddäus Immler, a photo pioneer and alpinist from Bregenz, Austria. In 1887, Immler produced the oldest known photos of the Silvretta mountain range. They became the source for a panoramic drawing by Julius Ritter von Siegl that was published in 1888. The panorama is a rare document of the region's vast cryosphere during the 19th century. Thus, it became an essential source for historians and glaciologists as the glaciers that were depicted receded dramatically during the 20th century. Some have almost vanished completely.

Unfortunately, Immler’s photographs have been forgotten over time, and many researchers I spoke with believed that the panorama was drawn after nature. Thanks to the support of Ute Pfanner from Vorarlberg Museum Bregenz, I could find the original prints in the museum’s archives.

Immler used the collodion wet plate process, so he had to prepare and develop his glass negatives on location before he could do an exposure. His equipment must have weighed around 50kg and had to be carried up to the exposed summit of Hohes Rad, long before mountain roads and marked hiking trails.

I understand his efforts as an ambiguous example of romantic love for nature and the advent of industrialised imaging technologies. Thus, in 2022, I reenacted his expedition to complement his captures with contemporary views of the glaciers produced with the extended possibilities of modern equipment. Eventually, I spent six days on and around the mountain, including a bivouac on the summit from September 12 to 13. In an ongoing process, I will contextualise the resulting productions with Immler's historical footage to create a selection of works for exhibition and publication.

1/4 Thaddäus Immler, 152, Panorama vom Hohen Rad. Fluchthorn.; 153, Panorama vom Hohen Rad. Dreiländer Spitze.;154, Panorama vom Hohen Rad. Piz Buin.; 155, Panorama vom Hohen Rad. Groß-Litzner., 1887, Albumen Prints, Vorarlberg Museum, Bregenz
Reenactment of historical photographs of vanishing glaciers
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Reenactment of historical photographs of vanishing glaciers

The project emphasises my understanding of photography as a performative gesture in the context of my case studies.

1/6 Axel Braun, Nach Thaddäus Immler: Panorama vom Hohen Rad, 2022 (work-in-progress)

In 2022, my work was supported by a NEUSTART KULTUR grant by Stiftung Kunstfonds.