New Series by Joachim Koester

Grace Marie Roy Hess
Oct 23, 2014 12:50PM

Joachim Koester has a new series of photographic works entitled "By a strange prodigy, after a few minutes of contemplation, I would melt into the object gazed at and was myself transformed into that object".


With this latest series of works, Joachim Koester explores imagery that was created in the mid-1970s surrounding the counter culture and popularization of marijuana. This imagery was due, in great part, to the introduction of High Times magazine. Initially based on Playboy, each issue featured a different strain of cannabis in place of the regular female centerfolds, allowing the aesthetics of the plant to become its focus, presenting it as an object of beauty or desire.


Over the next several decades, thanks to the Reagan Administration’s firm anti-drug stance, the use and cultivation of marijuana was forced to go underground, literally moving it indoors. Ironically, in attempting to banish marijuana from popular culture and use, this move would lead to an explosion of exploration and creation of new strains and variants, inciting a veritable revolution in the field.


These two cultural phenomena are explored in Koester’s work, as different strains of cannabis have been photographed, and placed in juxtaposition to one another. In a nod to Karl Blossfeldt’s iconic flower photographs, each image features a singular plant, at close range. In this placement, the compare and contrast between each strain allows for its individuality to come to the forefront. However, in so doing, the result is ultimately a demonstration of plurality, a physical manifestation of the overabundance of the individualized strains and plants that exist—a kind of subculture excessiveness that is also captured by Koester’s photographs.


Such themes of production and appearance are common in Koester’s work. Attempting to capture traces of what once was, Koester’s work functions as a kind of documentation of the past as well as a poignant comment on what happens to these places when all is gone. Carefully questioning narrative and identity, Koester uses photography and film to explore how history is established, and how the photographic medium is, ultimately, ambiguous.

Grace Marie Roy Hess