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Shelves by German photographer Candida Höfer is a classic example of her fascination with public and cultural spaces. In this photograph, the vast and symmetrical book-lined walls of a multiple story gallery spread to the left and right and pull away tantalizingly down a middle corridor aligned with the center of the image.
"I think that because the people aren’t visible they are much more recognizable. You see that the rooms are made for people. Even when you don't see them, they are there." —Candida Höfer
As with her other photographs of similar spaces, there are no people in the image. The viewer is left with just the structure and is therefore invited to examine the walkways, ladders, and shelves, all devised and arranged to house thousands of pages of human knowledge. Her photographs dive into the psychology of social architecture, where buildings and infrastructure can reflect cultural identity. Building can seem to be oppressive, intimidating, contemporary, open, seductive, proud, pompous, accessible, inhospitable, showy and ostentatious. How the surface of a building, and its architectural infrastructure, affects you depends on your cultural perspective.