PARIS | Interview in Réponses Photo

ReponsesPhoto

Réponses Photo, a monthly magazine founded 1992 for photography enthusiasts with an circulation of 50.000 copies features my work in their current edition 286 „portraits en basses lumières“.  Thanks for the interview Carine Dolek! Here’s a rough translation of the French text:

Night and Light is a strong metaphor in your work, how, in your artistic production and evolution, how did you came to this?
I always felt comfortable at night, it came to me naturally. After 15 years of shooting at daytime (staged or street photography on various themes: http://archiv.eldagsen.com ) I decided to concentrate only on night photography. Besides the metaphorical aspects of light & darkness, the night helps me to make a painterly composition: I start with available light and put additional light only on those elements I want to be in the picture. All elements that do not fit the composition will disappear in the shadows.

Did this change your way of making pictures? What were you doing before the poems, and how, and how did you came to your shooting routine for the poems, technically?
Before THE POEMS, I was working 1-2 years on one series, often using non-professional equipment to photograph, e.g. old mini-dv video cameras with photo still function or early phone cams. Shooting at night turned me into a mothman. I got attracted by light like a moth,and first I only used what was available, later I added torch light, filters, tricks. Thus I became more freely in transforming what is in front of my lens into the pictures I want to have.

What are your influences and inspiration, and how do you integrate them to your work?
Without being aware of it, I always felt myself connected with artistic movements that have dealt with the unconscious: from religious, mystic and magic practice to Romanticism, Symbolism, Surrealism and beyond. I loved the light of Rembrandt, the silhouettes of C.D.Friedrich, the darkness of Böcklin, Klinger, Kubin, the eroticism of Dali, the humour of Ernst, the twisted obsessions of Peter Greenaway’s movies, and the spiritual weirdness of Alejandro Jodorowsky. In photography I loved the absurdity of Anna and Bernhard Blume, the poetry of Sudek and the abstract nudes of Drtikol. Roger Ballen’s work blew me away when I saw it. A deep work on so many levels, questioning what it is to be human. I hope that you can find traces of all of them in my work. I do not refer to them consciously, but from time to time I realise their influence when I analyse my work retrospectively. Music inspires me, other art forms such as painting, theatre, film. Anything can be a source of inspiration when you know what you are looking for.

What kind of light are you looking for, and how do you play with them? Do you always use only available light, or do you add light sometimes?
Any kind of light. Sometime I use the light source directly, sometimes I mirror it through glass. I also mix available light (street light, car lights, anything that you can find in a city at night) with cheap light sources I carry with me, such as LED torches or bicycle backlights. Sometime I put colour filters on top of the torch.

What are special techniques or skills you had to learn, or learned with experience?
To use limitations (material or financial) as advantages. To free yourself of cameras and light gears that cost thousands of euros,and have hundreds of options you will never use. The less you have, the more creative you can become. If you have all photographic equipment of this world in your hands, you might use many of them, but none to its full capacity. If you only have one tool, you will use it 200%.

What are the possibilities and the limits of your kind of shooting?
The possibilities and limits do not depend on a way of shooting but one the creativity and vision of the person behind the cam.

What is your shooting routine? What is the typical shooting like?
I love to hijack events. That means I go to a place where there are many people and interesting light (what is an interesting light?). This can be anything from an erotic fair such as Venus Berlin, to a festival of lights, a religious celebration or a Halloween party. I go there with my cam, a sheet of glass, some filters, a torch and a little tripod. No special gear, I mostly use a 10 year old Nikon Coolpix. Half of the time I do not interact with what is in front of my camera. Technically, you could call it street photography, but it doesn’t look like it – because I do not want to document what’s happening but use it for my own purpose. The other half of the time I bring models and we work on ideas I have developed beforehand. The rest is improvisation, trying out different poses, playing with the light and the place.

How did you came to do workshops, and what surprised you the most with the students expectations or skills? what is easy or difficult for them?
I finished my visual arts and philosophy studies with a teaching degree. Teaching speeds up my thinking. The more I help others with their ideas, the more my own creativity becomes faster and effective.
The most difficult thing for students is to let go of industry standards and to come out of their comfort zone. If you use photography as an artist, there are no rules.
But to create your own rules you have to look inside and find out what you really want and why you started to work with the medium. I often recommend to go back in time and write down what artists inspired you…visual arts, music, film…etc. And why. Then have a look at you own artistic production. What did you do before or in addition to photography? Write, paint, dance, play an instrument? Why did you do this and what did you want to express. Also have a look at your own photographic work. What do you see in there? Write it down and map it out on a table, you will see connections, links, themes you have not been aware of. Now go in there and make THIS the subject you are working on – but more consciously than before.

What do you think is the next step now?
I recently bought myself a cheap transportable projector running on batteries. With this I can project any forms or videos and even do projection mapping. No idea where this will lead me but I enjoy trying out new things.

ADVICES?
1. Get a model and go out at night, find an interesting light source.
2. If the light is not enough, use a an additional torch. Any LED torch will do. Get a tripod for the torch and Gaffa tape to fix it on there.
3. If you do not want to have harsh light, put a paper handkerchief over the torch. This is the cheapest softbox you can get.
4. Do not photograph the model directly, but as a reflection in a sheet of glass.
5. Put additional sand or glitter on the glass sheet.
6. Experiment with all of this and do not forget to put the model in a pose and the corresponding emotional state.