Hans-Christian Schink’s series Tōhoku is composed of sixty scenes, taken one year after the region was devastated by the Great Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Looking at the first few photographs, one may even wonder whether or not they were really shot in the disaster area. Paying close attention, traces of destruction are evident in every photograph. Visiting the site of the disaster after a year had elapsed, Hans-Christian Schink was too late for the event of the earthquake itself, was an outsider, and, therefore, as can be seen through his approach, was exercising extreme prudence in his attempt to come face to face with scenes of the stricken areas. What had occurred here on March 11, 2011? What can be discerned through the landscape one year later?
One can find similar aspects in Schink’s previous works, too, that examine the factor of time. His Verkehrsprojekte Deutsche Einheit (Traffic Projects German Unity, 1995–2003), a work that brought him to international prominence, dealt with how the German landscape was transformed by a project promoted by the government to improve the country’s transportation network, following unification of East and West Germany. Schink’s camera matter-of-factly recorded how highways, bridges, and other monumental structures sliced open beautiful hills, grasslands, and forests, rising up with an overwhelming massiveness. What comes to the surface in these photographs about the transformation of the German landscape amid the tumult of national reunification is historical perspective.
Another work in which Hans-Christian Schink dealt with time on a grand scale was his 1h series (2002–10), in which he crisscrossed the globe, tracing the path of the sun across the sky. Depending on the latitude and the time of year, the sun’s path exhibits a variety of changes. By converting the movement of the sun over a one-hour period—a segment of time that one can feel physically—into a line burned into the center of each picture (a pitch-black line created by overexposing the film, thereby creating a negative image), Schink succeeded in introducing into a single image a perspective on the movement of celestial objects that have been moving since time immemorial—something normally far beyond the scale of things human.
Common throughout other of his works as well is Schink’s interest in taking everyday scenes and attempting to glean from behind its subjects something big. Among the various things that surface in Schink’s photographs, the flow and accumulation of time consistently seem to be important factors, reaching out from somewhere within the images.
Rei Masuda, Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art Tokyo
Since the beginning of the 1990s Hans Christian Schink has traced, in different photography series, the appearance of this desire for order. In these he reveals, on the one hand the fascination of the educated artist with architectural details as "finished" compositional models, and on the other hand they reveal a critical dimension in the proportionally tense imbalance between architecture and nature. His pictures however always retain a distance - he captures fictitiously, in a photographic act, the position of the indifferent observer who reproduces simply the apparent, what "is" (what he sees), yet on the other hand (as an inheritance from the German early romantics), an attitude signalising lost proximity, a melancholy of loss.
When Hans-Christian Schink arrives in 2002 in Los Angeles (with a scholarship from the Villa Aurora) he will be interested primarily in the periphery of the urban, which brings to light the moving interplay of different systems of order: on the one hand the objects of order and general economic set-up determined by man's will to create, and on the other hand the "rightness" of nature with its own patterns of growth and passing, sedimentation and washing away. Twenty years before, between 1978 and 1983, the American photographer Robert Adams had explored the social and ecological distortions in the surrounding areas of the Megapolis, in his Californian pictures, so that one does not certainly, from some similarity of motives, go from a secret homage to the master of the precise observation of the inconspicuous. But where Adams mixes in the invisible middle of the world, to which he loans a photographic face, Hans-Christian Schink remains in the position of the outsider, on a Baudelairian stroll, that photographs and interprets only from one's existence in the mode of distance and alienation. Therefore his landscapes have the effect of still-lives, which obviously consume, exhaust, captivate and are brought to rest.
His "L.A. Night" deals with the loss of proximity. He captures Mulholland-Drive and Griffith Park from the city's sea of lights on a small-format, highly photo-sensitive colour-negative film. He obtains strong granular prints from which he enlarges the smallest cut-outs into two-meter formats - with the effect of a corresponding dissolution of the motifs till they near the indefinable. This point of view came to be an excluding procedure - the object that was enlarged became a scheme, a foil, to a sparking view, far from anything of today. The reality remains a fascinating unknown quantity.