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  There is beauty everywhere  
Author: Veronica Wilkinson
Publication: The Sunday Argus
Publication Date: 24 May 2009

A new photographic publication by GĆ¼nther Komnick questions what we see when we really take the time to look.

Award-winning photographer and advertising veteran GĆ¼nther Komnick has recorded images for decades and experienced advances in technology that have revolutionised printing and publishing.

Komnickā€™s appetite for life is evident in the range of his work, which includes childrenā€™s book illustration, and industrial photography for clients including British Petroleum, Grindrod and Murray & Roberts.

Some of his sketches date back to the horror and hardship he experienced during the Russian invasion of Germany during World War II. Starkly precise renditions of bomb craters on roads impeding refugeesā€™ horse-drawn carts, and portraits of emaciated labour camp companions have been carefully preserved. His later paintings are abstract impasto compositions.

Born in Insterburg in the former German province of East Prussia in 1929, he passes a wry comment about his family "losing everything in minutesā€¯. He was incarcerated in a Russian labour camp for three years until his escape at the age of 18.

But far from defeating his survival instinct, extreme circumstances developed in him a rare value system. He left Pomerania (Poland) for the German town of LĆ¼beck and thereafter to Donaueschingen in the Black Forest, a region of south western Germany renowned for its sculpture.

He intended working as a farm hand while he developed his talents as a sculptor, but these plans were fortuitously derailed by a friend of his employer, a man named Joseph Bromberger, who recognised Komnickā€™s talent and took him on as an apprentice lithographer.

Indomitable spirit combined with diligence as Komnick continued developing his skills, working as a graphic artist from Basel to Bern in Switzerland. But he felt he needed more adventure and light, and an advertisement for South Africa attracted him to Johannesburg in 1956.

He came to Cape Town where he set up his own graphic design business in 1965.

An exhibition of his photographs at Kelvin Grove in March 2006 fuelled public expectation for a book of photographs spanning 50 years of photography, featuring images in exotic locations like Namibia, Zanzibar, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and South Africa.

His new publication Impressions provides a photographic compilation of distilled experience with an acute focus on beauty. Komnick says he "likes pictures to tell a story, have a meaning. If you have to explain what a picture is all about, then you have not succeeded.ā€¯

Thirty of the volumes have been handsomely bound in leather with gold embossing, all printed in Singapore to the high standard that is the benchmark of this lifetime Associate of the Royal Photographic Society.

Other credits to Komnick include official albums recording the visits of heads of state like Queen Elizabeth II, John Major and Francois Mitterrand, which are kept at Parliament. He also contributed the archival documentary photographs for the Africana collectable oblong folio Colussus of Roads by Patricia Storrer, about Scots engineer and explorer Andrew Geddes Bain, the man who, with his son Thomas, built of South Africaā€™s mountain passes and roads.

Komnick, 80, has three talented children, all graphic designers, who live in Cape Town, New Zealand and Australia respectively, and he is a proud grandfather.

Modestly quipping that "the more you see the more you realise there is to seeā€¯, his living and working environments are studded with objects that are mute evidence of his passion for discovery.

In the book Impressions the question of what the reader would focus upon if looking at life through a lens is posed, and answered with the dictum that there is beauty in everything we see if we take the time to look. Komnickā€™s gaze has been met with rare extremes that have been recorded in his role of artist. He is a self-made man who embraces every opportunity to improve and develop his talents, and he constantly looks forward to new challenges and experiences with his wife Lila.