The exhibition De Afstand (Distance) presented “distant,” documentary photography by eight artists. In this exhibition, Witte de With sought to contribute to the discussion about the relationship between photography and the visual arts.

De Afstand investigated the relationship between photography and reality, by way of the concept of distance. The selected works focused on the representation of nature. Historically, the genre of the landscape painting had presupposed a specific viewing distance as well as the display of a changing continuity and unity in a tableau. The camera, however, cannot present such a unifying picture of nature. It cannot keep a distance. It functions rather as an analytical instrument, cutting like a scalpel into the continuity of the visible world. This is why the artists of the twenties, in particular the German photographer Raoul Hausmann, gave priority to the structuring of things over their appearance. To describe was no longer simply to represent things as they present themselves to us, but to reveal their internal structure, thus, to arrive at the law through the example. The photographic landscape became a “piece of nature.”

Participating artists were: Jean-Marc Bustamante (1952), Paul-Armand Gette (1927), Andreas Gursky (1955), Raoul Hausmann (1886 – 1971), Craigie Horsfield (1949), Jean-Luc Moulène (1955), Thomas Struth (1954), and Christopher Williams (1956).

The core of the exhibition consisted of a little known series of landscape photographs by Raoul Hausmann, which were shot between 1927 and 1933 at the coast of the Baltic Sea and the Pommeren region in Germany. These works are pure photographic registrations of nature, that immobilize a momentary state of things. The photographic works by the other artists were grouped around this series. In contrast to Hausmann, however, these contemporary photographers try to produce photographic tableaux. Their landscapes are created in a documentary form that is aimed at keeping a critical distance.