We first discovered this work after it was submitted to the Exposure Awards 2014. Although it was not chosen as a finalist by the jury, the editors of LensCulture were impressed and decided to publish this feature article about it. Enjoy!
Known for his architectural and design photography, Klaus Frahm expanded into capturing images of theaters and opera houses since 2010. The Fourth Wall: Stages analyzes this unique space through dramatic theory.
The history of modern theaters begins in 1585 with Andrea Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza. It was the first theater to be covered by a roof. In Europe, especially in Germany, we retain a long tradition of theater-buildings—indeed, more than 90 opera houses still exist today in Germany.
“The Fourth Wall” is a concept in dramatic theory, often used by actors to signify the invisible stage wall where the audience is seated to view the play. The stage is classically perceived from the audience’s perspective, where they are able to glimpse the action through a “window” into the set—”The Fourth Wall.”
In this series, the direction of the viewpoint is opposite: we take the perspective of the actor. The camera is far behind the iron curtain.
It is the camera’s specific perspective, dissolving the traditional order, which questions the hierarchy of the stage and audience. For the French philosopher Lacan, an image is a gaze pointing outward, as the light-points send out rays to the viewer. In other words, the image looks at the onlooker.
Here, the space reserved for the audience becomes flat, like a postcard, and the real space of the theater, the stage, is explored in many directions. The camera looks up, taking note of the scaffolding and lighting structures: the mechanics of the space. Thus, we become aware of a workspace hidden behind the red velvet curtain. The contrast between backstage machinery and the sea of velvet seats is exciting.