‘Die Neue Grafik’ is an ongoing series of graphic abstractions which use portrait photography to explore modernist design principles drawn from typography and other creative disciplines. Beginning as photographs shot in-studio, the images are then overlaid with colour layers to create the final compositions.
Named for the seminal 1950s Swiss graphic-design journal, the series builds upon the Italian and Swiss design sensibility of the 1950s and ’60s. It represents an effort to subject photography to the same aesthetic principles that the European modernists applied to typography and other two-dimensional elements, including the reduction and simplification of colour and shape, an emphasis on sharp outlines and clearly defined negative space, and a movement away from naturalistic portrayal and toward the abstract and stylized.
In this last respect, the series also represents a new step in Heck’s ongoing aim to push photography away from taking pictures and toward making pictures—abandoning documentary realism and human portraiture in favor of a greater realization of photography’s purely creative possibilities. In the images of ‘Die Neue Grafik’ the human figure is alienated, faceless and all but unrecognizable; reduced to shape and colour, it becomes another graphic element in two dimensions— no more or less figural than a capital letter.