Of This Place and Elsewhere

Series of 116 images, published in Of This Place and Elsewhere (2006, TIFF/Wilfrid Laurier/Indiana University Press).

1977–2004

Of This Place and Elsewhere: The Films and Photography of Peter Mettler focuses on Mettler’s career as a director, emphasizing the global nature of his films, but also discusses Mettler’s groundbreaking explorations in the field of visual mixing and his work as a still photographer and cinematographer. The book is richly illustrated with examples of Mettler’s work.

Mettler’s long-time collaborator and producer Alexandra Rockingham Gill provided the following introductory text for this selection:

“It has everything to do with the gaze.

“I am speaking of the way Peter Mettler looks out of his self. Not long after meeting Mettler one understands why, throughout both his films and photographs, there is a sense of tremendous integrity. After his gaze falls on you it is clear that his vision is not a matter of aesthetic posturing or willfullness. It is fundamental to the man. He is a wanderer, a twenty-first century nomad whose migrations are not so much in search of new lands or new images, as in search of new looking. And every person, every act, every back alley is admissible.

“When we see the world through the medium of Mettler and his various still and motion cameras, the world enters us, becomes us, in the way music enters and becomes us, with that same intimacy, that immediacy. When we see his photo of a forest we see the place, and more than the place. We apprehend some living essence of the forest, and we even feel this entity acting on us, a kind of communication. Mettler’s films and photographs have nothing to do with generating new images, even if many of his images are new. And although most of what we see through his work is of great beauty, it is not beauty that is on offer. Peter Mettler shows us not only what it means to look at the world – and how we shape as we look – but also how we are changed by the world as it looks back at us.

“The photos in this book are arranged in sequence, forming an associative film of sorts. They also move loosely from early black-and-while 35mm negative photos to recent colour digital shots. Page to page, we are presented with a pairing, as if invited to compare and contrast. But instead we find ourselves holding the two photos in mind as one.

“There is an impulse towards wholeness in the totality of Mettler’s work, as well as in each single frame, the suggestion that all things have their place, carry equal value, belong to one another. At the end of this book, in an enterprise Mettler terms “teledivinitry,” tens of hundreds of images appropriated from other sources are layered densely to make literal the wholeness implicit in a lone exposure.

“Mettler opens a gaze we may not always have the wisdom or patience or awareness to allow on our own. The world is seen, fluid and flawed yet alive, and it is this aliveness that feels to us like beauty. His images are not a fixing of the world, but transmissions of its mutability, its mystery. He offers a chance to recognize perception itself, as a reciprocal encounter with the world. And that may be exactly what sets Mettler apart. The images he gives us are never dead, will never die, even if they are of dead or dying things. They are alive and changing us, as the world is alive and changing us.”

Exhibitions:

Lennox Gallery, Toronto, 2006.