Surf Fiction is a visual assault, a larger-than-life collision of text and images inspired by comic book culture. Shot during several trips to Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, it’s a melting pot of video stills, close-up portraits, street photography and apparently staged scenes, which German photographer Werner Amann published with White Press Books late last year; featuring larger-than-life characters and fast-paced editing, it convincingly blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction.
“The initial idea was to relate photography not only to its history but to other media – TV, film, video, surveillance footage, comic-book culture, typography, and conceptual art – but to keep the heart of the project in the realm of classic photography,” explains the 45 year old. “One theme is how media culture relates to our present social reality. How can we re-appropriate the world – not only the world of images, but the world itself, for ourselves?”
The ‘surf’ of the title is a play on words, referencing both surfing the net and, metaphorically, the mediation of everyday life, “like zapping through TV channels but in real urban space”. This idea of fast-moving, throwaway culture, of life rapidly flashing past, is reflected in both the images and the way they’re presented, showing a kind of trashy, faded glamour and crass materialism via DPS bleeds, collages, and deliberately lo-fi graphics.
Amann, who lives and works in Berlin, used a combination of natural light – “although the natural light in Los Angeles is often all but natural” – and harsh flash, overexposing the film to accentuate the colours. “The colours in Surf Fiction are how I perceive the real and imaginary space of Los Angeles,” he says. “They are not accurate in a technical sense but they add an imaginary layer to depict this space.
“It was important for the book to strike a balance between being an object of great quality and an object that relates to media culture – like a fanzine or comic-book,” he adds. “I wanted it to have a certain democratic accessibility.”
See more of Amann’s work here.