SummaryIn this study I attempt to interpret Thomas Struth’s early street photographs in the light of Jacques Lacan’s definition of trauma in his seminars “The Unconscious and Repetition” and “Of the Gaze as Objet petit a.” As I see it, these photographs are composed in a rigid manner that point to an underlying trauma, seen from this perspective, despite the artist’s explicit intention to create realistic images of the street motifs. What I specifically focus on is how the images emulate a “classical” model of representation, most visibly in the inclusion of orthogonals in the images, conventionally associated with painting. These appear imposed on the image, as I see it, and disrupt the spatial illusion. As Lacan describes the traumatic in art in these seminars, it emerges precisely through the attempts to ward off an underlying trauma, and it is as such attempt to construct “screens” against underlying emotional tension, that I interpret Struth’s images.Furthermore, in the photographs discussed here, Struth repeats a pre-defined photographic procedure, taking all of his images from the middle of different streets throughout Western Europe and the United States. The repetitive features in his works as I see it directly relate to Lacan’s psychoanalytic theories where repetition, under given circumstances, is interpreted as a reaction functioning to ward of a traumatic memory. An important source, aside from Lacan in this “traumatic” interpretation of Struth’s images, is Hal Foster’s interpretation of Superrealism in his book The Return of The Real. Foster argues here that these extremely detailed paintings in fact point to an underlying trauma, precisely in their obsessive fixation on surface appearance of objects. Rather than in fact functioning as realistic images, Foster argues that the spatial illusion is so excessive that it in fact breaks down. In that way, Foster provides a model for how to interpret contemporary, realistic art in light of Lacan’s seminars discussed here, which I use in my discussion of Struth’s images. I see them as well as “dysfunctional” as realistic images, precisely because they introduce a compositional device – perspective – that seems misplaced in the context of contemporary art, in a photographic project. What the images point to, as I interpret them, rather than the given motifs in the individual images, is the emotional impulse motivating his extremely rigid photographic practice.