Ray Metzker – Pictus Interruptus

© Ray Metzker (1976-1981) 'Pictus Interruptus'

I find Ray Metzker (1931-2014)’s work very alluring, particularly one project called Pictus Interruptus (1976-1981).

I was drawn in by the disorientating photographs I observed in the series. The photographs were part ordinary scene in the distance, part out of focus object in the foreground. However, the ordinary scenes seemed to blend in with the out of focus object and vice versa, with a striking imbalance between the scene and its out of focus intervention. I later found out that Metzker achieved the effect from the out of focus objects because: ‘in each picture a single object, an “interrupter”, is held up between the camera’s lens and the subject.’ – (Metzker, 1976-1981). The way the “interruptor” interacts with the viewer is interesting too; for me I didn’t understand the photographs, maybe they weren’t made to be understood! but I wanted to know more about each “interruptor” and how it was made and why Metzker had chosen it for each particular subject.

A lot of the work seemed to function on a level of light and shadow and so black and white appears the perfect medium for this type of work. This is because it shows off form more than content and naturally disorients the viewer somewhat because of the lack of colour. Therefore the interplay between “interruptor” and background seemed natural yet slightly disturbing. This was presumably because the viewer could tell it was a non-manipulated image and because of the way Metzker had cleverly selected each prop or “interruptor” to play off shadows and the background with imbalance.

© Ray Metzker (1976-1981) 'Pictus Interruptus'
Fig. 1 © Ray Metzker – ‘Pictus Interruptus’ (1976-1981)

I found Metzker’s brilliant series playful yet haunting. I did wonder whether Pictus Interruptus (1976-1981) would work in colour. Mari Mahr mostly works in black and white but her series Georgia O’Keeffe (1981) is in colour. There are similarities in Metzker’s and Mahr’s work but Metzker with Pictus Interruptus (1976-1981) intervenes with a real-life scene rather than a photographic print. I like the idea of intervention in the landscape to make an ordinary scene or background more meaningful.


Mahr, M. (1981) Georgia O’Keeffe. At: http://marimahr.com/works/georgia_o_keeffe/index.html (Accessed on 07/08/2019.

Metzker, R. (1976-1981) Pictus Interruptus. [Photograph] At: https://www.photopedagogy.com/pictus-interruptus.html (Accessed on 07/08/2019).

Metzker, R. (1976-1981) Pictus Interruptus. At: http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/exhibitions/ray-k-metzker2 (Accessed on 07/08/2019).


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