'There's still always a first time. Reading, the imagination, the confrontation with reality. Must imagination shy away from encountering reality, or do they love each other? Can they become allies? Do they change when they meet? Do they swap roles? It's always the first time.' (Lady Windermere, in Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia.)
Ulrike Ottinger took her first photograph at the age of nine, on a canal boat in Amsterdam. Two Indian gentlemen, one in a trench coat, the other wearing a turban with a well?tailored suit, smile for the camera. When she asked if they would mind having their picture taken, they kindly agreed.
Every one of the thousands of photographs that Ulrike Ottinger has taken since then is a first picture. It always refers to something beyond itself: to the reality that precedes it; to countless images from the repositories of the arts, of everyday culture and of myth; and to the visual cosmos of her own increasingly dense œuvre. These photographs are encounters between things found and things invented. They are arenas in which reality and fiction, past and future, wish and fulfilment, transform each other.