THE TIMES ★★★★
The phrase “simply lovely” may not have been invented for this solo show by Volker Gerling, but I can’t think of a better way to sum up the pleasure to be derived from being in his company for just over an hour. You could, however, argue that this German photographer — or, as he labels himself, “flipbook film-maker” – isn’t actually alone on stage at all. He’s brought a slew of friends and acquaintances with him to Edinburgh, by which I refer to the people who have let him so beautifully and caringly steal their souls since he began travelling around his home country, and elsewhere, in 2003.
Gerling is a modest, meticulous itinerant artist with a deep yet gently expressed curiosity about people. Rather than be pinned down in a studio, he relies for inspiration on the encounters he has while venturing out in the world. Gerling estimates that he’s walked more than 3,500km throughout Germany, inviting people in teeming cities and tiny towns to view his wares and, sometimes, to be photographed themselves. He shoots his camera subjects — whether young or old, solitary individuals, couples or families — 36 times for 12 seconds. These images are the source of each flipbook he assembles and, thanks to a close-up camera and projector, the few dozen he shares with us during the performance.
Off-the-cuff, yet on some instinctive level highly collaborative, Gerling’s methodical and sensitive art is extraordinarily revealing. He thumbs through each flipbook three times, topping or tailing each viewing with tellingly detailed stories about who these people are and how he came to meet them. Nor is his work confined to human beings; he’s photographed housing blocks and in such locations as an art museum and a men’s loo. What gradually becomes clear is the gift Gerling has for observing life and landscape. Ideally staged in a lecture theatre, his show is uniquely heart-warming.
Donald Hutera, 25th August 2015
Portraits in Motion at Summerhall is a quirky delight. When Volker Gerling photographs people, he does so not once but 36 times in 12 seconds, binding the pictures as flipbooks that reveal “the moment where performance turns to real life”. He relates the story of each — a mother and daughter, a dying man, a young boy — and projects the flipbooks on to the wall behind him, their subjects springing to life. People break their poses, smile, look away, look back, kiss or hold their hands to the lens. In every instance, the last picture is a truer portrait than the first.
Gerling has walked his native Germany showing people his flipbooks, living off donations and finding new subjects. Spending an hour in his company, you can see why those people warmed to his gentle eccentricity and unfeigned interest in everyday stories. This is one of those shows you hope to stumble across at the Fringe, an oddity and a revelation.
Griselda Murray Brown, 14th August
TV BOMB ★★★★
Volker Gerling is a filmmaker, but not in the traditional sense. He makes short photographic movies which he prints out as flip books. Gerling also has a passion for walking incredibly long distances. He goes on long saunters throughout Germany and during his travels he creates flip book portraits about the people he meets. Portraits in Motion is a show about these flip books and the interesting and diverse people Gerling meets on his travels. It is also a show about a love of art, stories, travel and human emotions. Gerling covers a lot of ground during the 75 minute performance, but he is a skilled storytelling with a bright and warm personality, so the audience is in good hands.
The performance takes place in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre in Summerhall. This educational setting is appropriate as Portraits in Motion takes on the format of an a compelling lecture from an artist with a unique and original project. Gerling talks eloquently about his flip books, the moving image and his love of meeting new people. Volker Gerling is a curious person and this is expressed in his desire to walk. He clearly wants to experience life and this theme is the basis of his story and the performance.
During Portraits in Motion Gerling stands behind a small wooden table. On top of this table is a video camera, microphone and a series of flip books. The camera records the flip books as the performer holds them up to the lens and makes the pictures move. The flip books are then projected on to a large screen towards the back of the stage. The books look small on the table, but projected, the faces on the miniature books look large, expressive and emotive. This technique works perfectly and highlights the emotion of Gerling’s flip books and shows that Portraits in Motion is an interesting and original performance. Portraits in Motion will draw you in if you are an art lover, or if you just enjoy watching and listening to interesting stories.
Stephen Fraser, 10th August 2015
WHAT'S ON STAGE ★★★★
A chubby young kid, about ten or so, stares down the camera lens in black and white. He's shaven-headed and cynical, trying to make himself look tougher and older than he really is. Suddenly, he springs into life; his eyebrows move, he fixes his glare, and then his face cracks. That scowl gives way to confusion, then laughter, then a big goofy smile.Volker Gerling is a flick book photographer. He travels Europe, living off his art, and takes people's portraits en route. Portraits in Motion is a staged exhibition of his work. He holds these tiny booklets up to a video camera and whirs through the images therein. On the wall behind him, a short stop-motion film plays out.
We pose for photographs. We freeze our features into an expression of choice, be it a fixed smile or a faraway gaze. Gerling tries to get beyond that: to push past those poses and catch personalities. He holds up his camera to the audience and, instead of a single click, it whirs into action, click-click-clicking for ages and ages. He takes 36 pictures over 12 seconds. If you pose for a photo, you don't expect that.
Gerling's flick books capture those moments of surprise, that instant when masks melt away and fronts collapse. In catching people off-guard, Gerling gets something truthful. A woman on a train collapses into giggles and pushes the camera away. A middle-aged man looks up and grows irritable. A young woman struggles to suppress a smile. These are beautiful short films: strange snapshots of life, flush-full of character. His portraits of places, taken over longer time periods, aren't nearly so interesting. They're too familiar: DIY timelapse photography.
With people, you see the precise split-second when self-conscious gives way to honest reaction. Families react differently to couples, men to women, young folk to old. You can see all sorts in these shots: love, pride, humility, pain.Twelve seconds is a long time too; long enough to grow awkward or to regain your composure and react. Two teenagers start snogging mischievously. A woman at a bar smiles, then whips off her top. Two boys with fishing rods remain stock-still, without even blinking, as the grass moves around them.
Each year, the Fringe throws up curios like this: little gems that let you see the world a little differently. Just delightful.
Matt Trueman, 10th August 2015
BROADWAY BABY ★★★★
In his softly accented English, German photographer Volker Gerling introduces you to unforgettable faces in his quiet but compelling Portraits in Motion. It’s not a play, not a lecture – it’s artistic “show and tell” storytelling as Gerling talks about his 3500 km walks through Germany and Switzerland. On his ramblings, he took photographs of people he met who were kind to him or who were willing to look into the lens of his old Nikon and reveal something unrehearsed.
The results are dozens of “flipbook films,” each lasting 36 frames and 12 seconds. In the anatomy lecture hall at Summerhall, Gerling stands in the dark, holding the little booklets of images, flipping them gently as they’re projected on a screen behind him (he also has a microphone that captures the riffling clicks of the pages).
In the black and white photos, mostly close-ups of faces, Gerling’s subjects come to life in sweet smiles, tiny gestures, kisses and waves. He tells a little anecdote about each person or place he captured on film, stories that are funny, odd, sometimes tragic, sometimes sexy (there is a flash of nudity a time or two).
Gerling has a good eye and a personality so gentle that he waits for people to approach him, he explains, as he sits by a fountain in a village square or watches swimmers by a lake. In the shy grin of a chubby boy, in the flirty smile of a pretty woman at a bar, in the dance of a full moon behind a cathedral tower, Gerling catches brief moments of exquisite beauty in real time. His flipbook of lights flickering through the night from the windows of a Berlin apartment block required 17 hours of his standing at a distance, shooting three frames per hour.
“What we see comes from what we do not see,” says Gerling, quoting St. Paul.
Another artist, Vincent Van Gogh, said this: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
In Volker Gerling’s tiny flipbooks, great things emerge from small candid portraits of strangers that offer fascinating glimpses into the human soul.
Elaine Liner, 14th August 2015
THE SUNDAY TIMES ★★★★
Volker Gerling’s Portraits in Motion (Summerhall ) is a staged exhibition of flipbooks — call it thumb cinema — capturing the people he has met in his peregrinations across Germany. It’s more than whimsy. Holding his books under a video camera, Gerling flips through a litany of faces and moments. His subjects share their black-and-white gaze — cool, warm or quizzical. They are caught in the act of gap-toothed smiling, or shyly look away. These miniature stories rinse your eyes like spring water.
Maxie Szalwinska , 16th August 2015
Volker Gerling calls himself a “flipbook filmmaker”. Since 2003, the Berlin-based artist has been taking long walks, mostly in Germany, and photographing people; 36 shots in 12 seconds, on a loud and heavy Nikon F3. The black-and-white results, assembled into flipbooks, are a stunning twist on time-lapse photography. Sometimes he shoots solo portraits, at other times a mother and daughter or a trio of teenagers (wait ’til you see what happens there). For this show, Gerling stands before us with an unassuming but professorial air, telling stories and flipping through each book three times, images projected behind him. It’s a quiet but deeply moving study – the face can adopt an astonishing range of expressions in 12 seconds – punctuated by warm and genuine humour.
Rebecca Jacobson, 27th August 2015