The Satorialist of the sofa world – how one red couch changed photography forever
In the times before blogging was born, one man was already exploring anthropology through his own photographic records of world cultures. He did this armed only with a van, a camera... and a sofa!
It may sound strange, but in 1979 Horst Wackerbarth and his friend Kevin Clarke came up with the idea of presenting a view of the world through a kind of 'global living room', where people could pose in a reassuringly recognisable seat. Covering four years, over 250,000 km and armed only with a bright, bold cherry red sofa, they took to the road. Eventually a book, The Red Couch - A Portrait of America, was born. The resulting images are so imaginative they wouldn't look out of place on any of the current style and design blogs, showcasing stark imagery and real people against the cheeky pop of the crimson couch. You can't help but see how big an influence Wackerbarth must have had on the bloggers and photographers working today.
Since then, Wackerbarth has taken the sofa all around the world. He’s had a hit TV series Rote-Couch-Geschichten, which won awards across the globe, he set up the Universal Couch Foundation - and the sofa? Well that’s become a visual icon. The sofa has been a seat for celebrities like Steve Jobs and the Dalai Lama as well as ordinary people from pole to pole; it was even host to a herd of lions in 2010, who were a bit more ‘rough and ready’ than any of its previous occupants, promptly ripping it to pieces. Worry not though, Wackerbarth had it rebuilt, so the red sofa is here to stay.
A piece of everyday furniture seems the last thing that would attract universal interest for 30 years, but it's precisely that which makes it such an icon: everyone can identify with the image.
Wackerbarth sees it as a mobile soapbox, where open dialogue can flow for people in their own country, on their own terms and in return he offers them the opportunity to experience other people's journeys through the pictures and films that are produced. With an emphasis on the people and places he photographs, he hopes to leave a picture of the world for future generations and, who knows, the red couch could be the thing that keeps him in the public eye for years to come. As long as people need somewhere to place their posterior they'll be able to identify with this familiar piece of furniture, even when it's on the most extraordinary of adventures.
If you want your own soapbox that promises to last then check out the range at CSL fabric sofa for a comfortable, stylish and hard-wearing sofa that you can rely on for years to come.