Josef Schulz photographs architectural structures that are often overlooked; mass-produced buildings such as factories, warehouses, and storage units. Working with large-format film and digital processing, this German-based artist transforms declining industrial buildings into sleek structures—untainted by the ravages of time. In Sachliches and Formen (2001 - 2008), surfaces are carefully manipulated so that functional trappings—windows, signage, doors—are completely removed from the image. This technique accentuates the aesthetic qualities of the buildings, yet each structure never entirely loses the connection it has to its origin. These facades contain hardly any clues as to how a site might have once been used; the images oscillate between reality and the realm of pure form.
Situated within the slick and minimal architecture of Pearson Airport’s Terminal 1, travellers encounter Schulz’s works in a location where design embraces function. For the passerby, looking at these images within a comparable space further intensifies their enigmatic power. Here, bold and domineering forms take centre stage, revealing architecture’s capacity to manipulate and shape human experience. This series celebrates photography’s ability to extract beauty from something that is in essence utilitarian and mundane, drawing attention to the wonders of the everyday world.
Schulz’s photographs are experienced as a totality, placing equal emphasis on formal elements such as pristine symmetry, sharp colour, and geometric composition. By maintaining an ongoing harmony between land, structure, and sky, these images transform real places into impenetrable scenes. Emptied of any narrative and overwrought with artifice, they verge into abstraction.
Presented in partnership with The Greater Toronto Airports Authority and the Goethe-Institut Toronto