FACADES – Grand Tour is part of Markus Brunetti’s ongoing photographic project dedicated to recording and conveying the artistic complexity of European architecture by capturing the façades of historic cathedrals, churches and cloisters in minute detail. In the tradition of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s serial documentation of German industrialization, the front surface of each structure is photographed in a precise and regulated style allowing for typologies and comparisons.
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The subjects are conceived as idealized designs, or as what might be called photographic drawings on paper, similar to the architects’ or builders’ original plans and the engravings of Old Masters. Brunetti’s FACADES are the result of continuous travel and work with his partner, Betty Schoener, in their self-contained computer lab on wheels. Initially focused on sites in Western Europe, their Grand Tour has now broadened to include varied religious histories and denominations in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
New additions to the series include composites of the Baroque Marian Sanctuary in Święta Lipka, Northern Poland; wooden Stave churches of Norway; the towering St. Lorenz gothic church in Nuremberg, Germany; as well as the ornate façades of churches, basilicas and synagogues in Lithuania, Italy, Portugal, England and France.
To create a single work, Brunetti exhaustively photographs each façade from bottom to top, taking thousands of high-resolution frames over the course of a few weeks or, if necessary, a few years. Photographing in diffused, early morning light, and always from ground level, Brunetti works frame- by-frame, digitally capturing the minutiae of every square-meter of the façade. Ornamentations that would otherwise be overlooked or too distant to see, such as the half-length sculptures encircling the rose window of Siena’s Cathedral or the flying buttresses on Vendome, France’s Holy Trinity Church, become vividly clear.
The individual views are then assembled into a hyper-realistic interpretation of the entire façade, stripped of all modern-day elements. As a result, FACADES becomes a visual encyclopedia; an in-depth study of the relationships between form, religious function and cultural history.
Each photographic work, in communicating the sense of devotion and sacrifice of the original craftsmen and builders, strives to articulate a sacred language that for the first time in history is clearly translated through Brunetti’s own passionate, rigorous practice. ‘The builders and architects that built the churches had to be patient; most of them never saw the finished result of their endeavors as it took many decades or hundreds of years to finish the buildings,’ states Brunetti. ‘I try to work on FACADES with the same spirit and patience they must have had when starting to work on the real buildings.’