Vera Lutter achieves her haunting images by utilizing a prototypical camera, the camera obscura. Lutter temporarily transforms small spaces into what she calls porta-cabins or uses entire rooms. Her luminous photographs consist of the negative form of the image created by her large pinhole cameras, which she rights from its inverted state for presentation and exhibition.
Lutter's images are not recorded with the click of the shutter, capturing in a fraction of a second the "decisive moment." Exposed over days, her shots accumulate pictorial data gradually, and the finished work thus manifests a protracted temporality. The hazy white band in the lower half of Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn, NY; June 26, 1996, for example, may be the trace of fluttering trees or changes in the weather, while a ghostlike outline in the parking lot is likely the vestige of a car that arrived or departed in the process of taking the photograph. As Lynne Cooke writes about the intensity of work in Lutter's practice: "Recognition of the considerable amounts of labor and of the physical as well as technical complexities involved in securing such vast yet fragile records always informs a reading of the finished work" (Lynne Cooke, "Rodney Graham and Vera Lutter: Time Traced," Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1999).
An element of unpredictability inheres in Lutter's practice, yet her large photographs of signs and architectural structures nonetheless exhibit a striking compositional rigor and a strong sense of pictorial structure. In this work the cross formed by the Brooklyn Bridge and its supporting granite towers divides the field of the image into a quadrant, and the delicate lines of the wire suspender ropes rhyme with the patterning of the fence in the bottom half of the photograph. Lutter is unable to fully control what passes before her camera obscura, but transitory and unforeseen elements only augment the vitality of her photographic long views.