Just as there are painted pictures that look as if they were photographs, there are also photographs that appear to be paintings, or abstract works. This also applies to many of the photographs by Hermann Kirchhof. Initially in black and white, later in colour, Hermann Kirchhof took and takes photographs of landscapes, although you can see neither mountains nor valleys. Instead, Hermann Kirchhof photographs the detail. This can be weathered wood, lying in the woods and looking like an abstract relief, or a little snow on which shadows fall and that suggests more an expansive desertscape with the shimmer of an imagined sun. Gas bubbles solidified in frozen slush become hovering spheres and frozen ice recalls the frottages of Max Ernst. In all of these pictures you suspect nature, but often only the extensive title tells you what you actually have before you. In most cases, though, this is not at all important. More important are the forms that enter into reciprocal dialogue or yield a graphical composition like the reeds reflected in the water when the photograph was prevented from developing fully. Hermann Kirchhof observes his environment with extreme precision. And therefore he constantly discovers new motifs in the microcosm of his garden as well. Here there are three leaves floating on the fishpond in autumn. There the ginkgo tree is green. The other two have adopted autumn colours. On these, water droplets shimmer like pearls. This gives rise to a picture where the colours harmonise, the leaves relate to each other. It is not a picture for the casual glance. But that is none of them anyway. Accordingly Hermann Kirchhoff calls them meditation pictures. He makes discoveries every day and completely unexpectedly when he checks his letterbox in the morning, for example. The previous nightís rain has caused the laburnum to drop its blossoms on the flagstones in front of the letterbox, where there are also a small number of leaves. Any other would have taken a broom and swept the flags clean. Hermann Kirchhof fetched his Leica and took a beautiful picture. The section he chose shows a single red leaf in unity with the laburnum blossoms.
These are colour photographs, for it was a luxury about twenty five years ago to photograph in black and white when you didnít have your own darkroom. The motifs though remained just the same as the type of photographs. Lichens colonising the rocks of Zermatt present a different colour depending on the direction they are facing. Just as they are photographed by Hermann Kirchhof, they become colours and forms, they resemble ñ as mentioned earlier ñ paintings, part abstract, yet part representational. For instance, one of these lichens is hiding Napoleon ñ Hermann Kirchhof immediately recognised and photographed him. The rocks themselves that the lichens colonise present layerings to form structures that constantly give rise to different impressions depending on their locations and how light falls on them. Rocks in water resemble dolphins splashing about there. Others stare at you or appear to be lost in thought, withdrawn. A stone overgrown partly by plants, covered with moss, and cracked in the one place presents, when seen from the right angle, a melancholy face. And then there are the tree spirits, who mainly live in Swiss or stone pines. These grow in the Alps as well as near Zermatt, at the foot the Matterhorn. Repeatedly the photographer is drawn to this place and repeatedly he discovers the new in the gnarled old trees, damaged in part by lightning and fire, but still growing on. With his photographs Hermann Kirchhof succeeds in making things in nature visible that cannot be detected at first glance. In doing so he transfers one of the most important principles of classical modern art to photography. A yearlong resident of Munich and one of the key pioneers of abstract painting the Russian-born Marianne von Werefkin formulated this principle as early as 1908 as follows: "The purpose of Art is to make things visible that are not, that at the most can be reflections of the real world in the artistís soul ñ dreams of the artist soul that envelop the realities." Susanna Partsch