Photographer Gregor Sailer captures ghostly images of hidden areas no one can visit

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Austrian photographer Gregor Sailer is known for capturing analogue images in both large (4 × 5″) and medium (6 × 9 cm) formats, using a Sinar p2 view camera. He uses lenses with focal lengths of 65, 90, 150 and 210mm. It makes for distinctive and eye-catching work, and he puts the technique to great use in his new photo book, Unseen Places.

From inaccessible landscapes and sealed-off territories to restricted military areas, these photos show surreal architectures at the margins of human civilisation. Typically, Sailer’s photos are deserted, the buildings on them seeming like sculptures. Whether that’s down to climate change, political conflicts or just an excessive need for security, Sailer’s pictures reveal the dynamics that lead to the existence of these ghostly places.

EastGRIP I, Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet, Ice Core Project, 2019. From the series The Polar Silk Road © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



EastGRIP I, Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet, Ice Core Project, 2019. From the series The Polar Silk Road © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Military Facility V, Norwegian Armed Forces, Andøya, Norway, 2020. From the series The Polar Silk Road © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



Military Facility V, Norwegian Armed Forces, Andøya, Norway, 2020. From the series The Polar Silk Road © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Complexe de Tir en Zone UrBaine II, French Army, France, 2015. From the series The Potemkin Village © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



Complexe de Tir en Zone UrBaine II, French Army, France, 2015. From the series The Potemkin Village © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Untergrundbahn II, Bochum, Germany, 2005. From the series Subraum © Johannes Naumann, Stefan Tuschy © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



Untergrundbahn II, Bochum, Germany, 2005. From the series Subraum © Johannes Naumann, Stefan Tuschy © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

This book, which joins previous volumes Closed Cities, The Potemkin Village, and The Polar Silk Road represents a triumph of sheer determination. Gregor Sailer’s photos often require months of research work and living under extreme conditions, such as enduring Arctic temperatures of minus 50 degrees, in remote, inhospitable parts of the world.

In its accompanying text, Christoph Schaden describes Gregor’s process. “From the start, his photographic working method is characterised by concentrating and disorientating aesthetic effect strategies, which understatedly know how to puzzle us precisely in combination with the gaze. Therein, consistently, the human body is left out in the cold; the physique of the image-giving technology, by contrast, persists. The photographer operates exclusively with a professional analogue camera to this day, in large and medium format.

Rabouni I, Westsahara / Algeria, 2010. From the series Closed Cities © Gre- gor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



Rabouni I, Westsahara / Algeria, 2010. From the series Closed Cities © Gre- gor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Mine I, Chuquicamata, Chile, 2010. From the series Closed Cities © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



Mine I, Chuquicamata, Chile, 2010. From the series Closed Cities © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Tiefort City VIII, Fort Irwin, US Army, Mojave Desert, California, USA, 2016. From the series The Potemkin Village © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



Tiefort City VIII, Fort Irwin, US Army, Mojave Desert, California, USA, 2016. From the series The Potemkin Village © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Hafelekar bei Innsbruck, 2334 m, Karwendel Mountains, Austria, 2006. From the series Ladiz © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022



Hafelekar bei Innsbruck, 2334 m, Karwendel Mountains, Austria, 2006. From the series Ladiz © Gregor Sailer and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

“One feels it,” Christoph continues. “The robust architectural structures elude access. They remain oddly enraptured and, nevertheless, in an eerie way, present. Thus, they bear down upon us onlookers more than can be comfortable. “Because things happen there that have an economic policy and – social impacts on us.”

Unseen Places was edited by Verena Kaspar-Eisert, and includes texts by Verena Kaspar-Eisert and Christoph Schaden. It’s available to buy from Kehrer Verlag for €29.90. There is also an accompanying exhibition at Kunst Haus Wien in Vienna, until 19 February.


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