Review: Was einem Heimat war

By Peter Granser

Photographs of war are much sought-after because they attract attention – drama, death and horror are reliable eye-catchers. A counter-strategy is pursued in the latest book by Peter Granser: “What We Once Called Home” (Verlag Bücher & Hefte, €28). It shows us a town that has been literally pulverized by armies, tanks, artillery and shells: Gruorn on the Swabian Alb. Its inhabitants were forced to abandon their homes when their village was incorporated into the Münsigen military training area in 1937–39.
What Peter Granser found here was therefore mostly a complete void. He makes what is absent into an important part of his visual language in photographs that bear a haunting resemblance to the earliest war photographs of all: Roger Fenton’s deserted landscapes captured during the Crimean War in 1855. Echoes of the American New Topographics movement in the 1960s are also apparent, when for example Granser composes black-and-white views of the barren hills of the Swabian Alb. He juxtaposes these images with sober studio shots of the ammunition used in Münsigen – a plethora of elegant-looking, deadly missiles before pristine white backgrounds. This chilling series is lent an emotional charge by the heart-rending, but futile, letter the Mayor of Gruorn wrote in 1937 lamenting the imminent extinction of his town. Peter Granser conjures from these elements a meditative study of transience and violence – a silent memorial in pictures.

Andreas Langen, Stuttgarter Zeitung, August 17, 2012