Željko Jerman
A Nude at the Cemetery, 1974
photography, mixed media, 1405 x 1095 mm

Before becoming a member of the Group of Six Authors – a group of conceptual artists consisting of, besides Jerman, painter Boris Demur, photographers Sven Stilinović and Fedor Vučemilović, poet Vlado Martek and experimental filmmaker Mladen Stilinović – Jerman tried his hand in many forms of photography. First, after he dropped out of high school, he attended courses in amateur photography; then he opened a photo studio called Blow Up, but this very quickly proved financially unsustainable. In the period from 1972 to 1973 he published photographs of female nudes in the erotic magazine “Eva i Adam”. In the early 1970s, he also started exhibiting his work more often and to define more clearly his specific relationship towards photography.
Jerman focuses on the technical aspect of photography, the chemical processes that lead to its appearance. He consciously creates “bad” photographs, that is, he refuses to create a photographic image according to the rules of fine-art photography, both amateur or newspaper, of the time. Instead of framing skills, balanced compositions, poetic motifs or dramatic documents of reality, in 1973 he used a developer to write “Drop dead, photography!” on the surface of photographic paper. He soon expanded the procedures of negating traditional photography by scratching, tearing and burning.
Although the theme of “A Nude at the Cemetery” does not go beyond the framework of fine-art photography – it is an erotic version of the allegory of the transience of life – with a specific treatment of photographic paper and unusual development of the negative, Jerman managed to transform an almost erotic scene into a photography that expands our understanding of it and enriches our experience of art.

Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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