So, too, must the imagination aide understanding of Another Language, the most succinct and compelling expression of Lange’s aesthetic to date. The fifty-nine black-and-white images in this diminutive 2012 book have simple compositions. He has placed the subjects of the pictures in the centre of each frame. Yet those subjects range widely, and the scale of what is depicted shifts from macroscopic to microscopic. This often happens from one image to the next; a frozen lake, seen from an airplane, appears opposite a small fossil.
Every image in the book is the same size, and a lack of contextualizing information—such as horizon lines—further flattens hierarchies. Animal, mineral, vegetable: all appear within Another Language’s pages without sharp distinctions. A viewer must rely on previous experience, on the mind’s catalogue of imagery, to disentangle these subjects and find their proper relationships.
Lange’s talent is to discover a separate reality in the surfaces of our world—even the impenetrable, glass-and-concrete facades of our cities.
Links among images are important to Lange. “Books are my primary interest and influence,” the artist has said. “I prefer intimately scaled printed matter, and I make my exhibition prints to match. If you want to see detail, you must look closely.” Lange’s clear vision descends in part from Scandinavian predecessors. His photographs recall the combination of specificity and mystery that characterizes the late Norwegian artist Tom Sandberg’s best work. And though people rarely appear in Lange’s pictures, as they do in Swedish photographer JH Engstrom’s work, Engstrom led a workshop that opened the younger artist’s mind to the expressive possibilities of the medium. (“I had never met anyone who thought about photography like he did,” Lange says.) His work is not as diaristic Engstrom’s, or for that matter Anders Petersen’s. Instead, Lange is closer in spirit to the Swedish photographer Gerry Johansson, whose pictures depict human culture through the traces it leaves on the landscape. Lange and his peers also rely more upon strategies derived from Conceptual art: categorization, systematization, emotional expressiveness nestled within a restrained style. Such impulses might also have come from Lange’s family history and education. His forebears were architects, engineers, and chemists, and Lange studied natural sciences and engineering until discovering photography while attending high school.
Lange likewise feels an affinity to German photographer Jochen Lempert’s studies of the natural world. Like Lempert, who frequently organizes his photographs into associative “chapters,” visual motifs weave through Lange’s work. For example, spirals appear several times in Another Language. Near the beginning of the book, a spit of land juts out into water and then curls into itself. Later in the sequence, a solitary leaf, isolated against a seamless white backdrop, bends to form a circle. Toward the end one finds a whirlpool of large but indeterminate scale. Seen from above, the concentric rings of disturbed water call to mind satellite imagery of hurricanes.