Some of us may think we look at things from all angles before taking a point of view, but do we really? German photographer Michael H. Rohde‘s From Below series is a great test. Through meticulous photographic documentation, then just as meticulous Photoshop work, Rohde produces views of living spaces that are at first curious, then surreal, and finally, unsettling. Placed underneath solid ground, yet without visual clues that solid ground even exists, our brains start an endless loop in search of it.
This lack of grounding — both obvious in the images, and subtle in their emotional effect — isn’t accidental. Rohde at one point found himself homeless for a stretch of nearly half a year. This displacement profoundly changed his reality, and it was during this time that he started photographing the temporary spaces he slept in from radically different points of view. From Below was conceived in that time, its worm’s-eye view mirroring the artist’s keenly-felt change in social status and perspective. Meditate long enough on any of these images of unanchored living spaces, and conflicting feelings of stability and instability, security and insecurity are inescapable.
Andrius Burba‘s Underlook series are more whimsical, and his technique more prosaic; the Lithuanian artist started by photographing cats from underneath a sheet of glass in the studio, before graduating to dogs and rabbits. (You can buy prints and other merch of the cuteness here).
Under-Horse, as you might imagine, was a heavier undertaking, requiring two months of advance prep, a team of 40, a back-hoe to dig a 10-foot deep pit over which was laid a 56 square-foot, half-ton sheet of ultra-strong glass. The photographer’s subjects, which themselves weighed 1,300 pounds, were fitted with custom rubber shoes so as not to scratch the glass.
The results, which strip away all but the horse floating in space, are strong, abstract, and curious — fun, even. The only discomfort comes from the horses themselves, who, standing and looking down through invisible nothing, may have been feeling some of what Rohde was.
For a peek backstage in all its muddy, chaotic glory, here’s the making-of video: