East Of The Rule Of Third


The Supper at Emmaus, Han van Meegeren 1936-1937

Here is one guy, who really hates his rule of thirds: He has a point, though. It’s often very hard to understand that from the rich canon of composition that we have amassed over several thousand years of producing art, the rule of thirds is the one thing that has made it into photography education. The rest is mostly left to feeling: You slowly, very slowly get a vague sense of composition and design when you talk to photographers that look at your work its flaws: “You let the viewer escape” (pointing to brighter spots near the edge of the picture.), “This lacks density”, “there is too much going on here” and so on. Photographic experience is – apart from some technical aspects – mostly that: A subconscious knowledge you have amassed over time what makes a picture tick.

And you either have a natural knack for that, you patiently wait until this form of knowledge miraculously emerges, or you just look into art theory and -history and try to derive some simple facts from how people have been drawing and painting for centuries:

…and then go on from there and look endlessly at paintings by Vermeer(or as in this case: pictures wrongly attributed to him).



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A Forest: Failure to Photograph

I went for the pars pro toto: A speck of light on a leaf, some bark, upturned roots, the soil where the roots dug in, the rustling of wind, the looking up into the sky tinted green, thirty images of an owl almost hidden on a branch. Green, green, green with rarely any discernible features.

What I wanted to photograph was the totality of being there. This whole, gigantic, centuries-slow moving organism. Now I can’t even be bothered to look at the images. There are literally thousands of them. I counted them. The forest is an opaque being, he does not easily divulge its secrets to us.

Redwood National Park, July 2016

Redwood National Park, July 2016

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The Polaroids


Since I’m back from the US I’ve been in some kind of photographic slump. That probably was to be expected: The photos came easy to me in America, the desire to hold on to what you see was overwhelming and the light triggered some kind of chemical reaction with the camera… Being back in Germany, I ended up with the photographic equivalent of a giant hangover. Haven’t done anything since. I brought back an SX-70 I bought at a thrift store for 10$. The camera is probably broken, as it overexposes everything and the focus is off: Still, I’ve been doing nothing much but taking Polaroids in the past weeks.

It doesn’t really help the faithfulness of the photos to use expired film and I also had to learn that Impossible’s Instant film is very sensitive to heat: With temperatures hovering around 30°Celsius you better put your camera into the fridge when you are not using it…

Yet, I still like the feel of photographing like this: It is slow as hell and as it is also expensive as hell I ponder endlessly about a picture (only then after an hour or so to shout I don’t give a fuck and just shoot) – it is “pictures as an object”, which is a welcome change to the ephemeral feel of the digital image and my constant feel of too much of everything…




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I am at war with the obvious

I am afraid that there are more people than I can imagine who can go no further than appreciating a picture that is a rectangle with an object in the middle of it, which they can identify. They don’t care what is around the object as long as nothing interferes with the object itself, right in the centre. Even after the lessons of Winogrand and Friedlander, they don’t get it. They respect their work because they are told by respectable institutions that they are important artists, but what they really want to see is a picture with a figure or an object in the middle of it. They want something obvious. The blindness is apparent when someone lets slip the word ‘snapshot’. Ignorance can always be covered by ‘snapshot’. The word has never had any meaning. I am at war with the obvious.

— William Eggleston, from a conversation with Mark Holborn, Greenwood, Mississippi, February 1988

And being a “volume guy” is not necessarily a bad thing. But has this changed now? The light in California and Washington triggering some kind of chemical reaction, resulting in all these futile Eggleston-flashbacks. I wanted to shoot less and give every shot more meaning, instead the opposite happened, I am just this slave submitted by his urges to the desire of the machine to see…

And what does democratic forest mean in a post-democratic society, where democracy has become a more and more dubious concept? And are you not bored by this endless stream of well-composed, colorful, over-processed images? Where the images do not make more sense of the world than there already is, which is very close to none at all? And we want the artist to do what? Make sense in the sense of producing it out of nothing? And post-democracy meaning some kind of death heat of public opinion, where we all look at the same pictures over and over again, our tastebuds being shaped by algorithms and market-mechanisms, and we all are becoming more and more alike…

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Look Homeward, Angel



The washed up trees like bones of big animals on the shore; we had this cabin next to a lake, spent the afternoon on the porch, drinking wine, looking over the lake laying quiet and dark and reading the last pages of Look Homeward, Angel, that wild beast of a book. Did not read anything else this vacation, when I stepped out of this book for a moment I preferred to just sit and stare and listen into this vast echo space of a country. How obsessed America is with its own identity! Who you are, what is America, endlessly looking for assurance, how have all these people come here together with the vague idea of making up a fiction a country. It is different in Europe, everything feels older, all ideas worn out, everything has become more of an bureaucratic endeavor, all hassle and organizing, all dreams long tamed and now breaking apart again into shards of abandoned national egotisms…. Ah, lost!

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Glass between me and the world

It is hardly surprising that I have concluded, after five years research, that camera is both a way of life and not enough to live by…psychologically speaking. Glass between me and the world is both a channel and a barrier. To live through the lens, to live out my inner conflicts and brambles through the camera, to turn to the camera to help me return to the world was an experiment I set out to explore five years ago. I knew it was headed for failure in some way, but I persevered because little else was left open.

— Minor White, Mirrors Messages Manifestations

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Housing in America

The first thing that comes to mind: Sort the pictures by what they show. Collect all houses, group all portraits, make a series of details. Do you have an agenda? Are you trying to tell us something about America? About its disintegrating towns?  That would be presumptuous. Keep it personal: This is where you have been. Try to preserve the ambiguity: How beautiful it was, how horrifying, how it scared you, how it instilled you a sense of wonder. Every assumption you have about America is probably right – and so is the opposite if you only drive 10 miles further down the road. It’s a roadtrip, it’s more about you then it is about the country you just drove through…


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An Edit

I struggle with the edit of these massive amount of pictures that I took these three weeks in the US. There are reasons for that apart from the sheer number. The question is basically: What’s the story you want to tell? Is it a story of America in turmoil, shortly before an election that has already ripped the country apart before it even happened? Do you have a political agenda about poverty and rural decline? The beauty of this country? The absurdity? All of it? None of it?

While Burmese Nights was mostly about the inability to comprehend another world, the opaqueness of a country like Myanmar, how you can go there and basically understanding nothing what you see as everything is so completely unfamiliar, with America it is almost exactly the opposite. Having grown up with a steady diet of films, TV, music, books, photos I almost feel that I know America better than I know my own country. This, of course, is both not true and a trap. The fictional America is almost like a second image overlaying what you actually see, obscuring it, rendering reality itself into fiction. Is there a way to sort out what you actually see from what you think you are seeing (the things you have read in a book, seen in a movie)?

I don’t know about that. The canon of american photography makes it even worse: The light there is like a catalyst, that suddenly sets free all these Eggleston-images, the Robert Frank allusions are everywhere, it becomes overwhelming, it becomes competition, you can’t help it but repeat these ghosts, your ego dissolves in other people’s views. I’m starting to like the failed pictures more, they are more myself: When the images are good, they are a shallow echo of what has come before, but my mistakes are mine and mine alone…

So, what about the edit? One teacher of mine (Anja Hitzenberger) once said, that I am more of a volume-guy: There is not this one good picture, and there is not one edit, but several pictures together that start beginning to make sense. At that point I ascribed that to not being particularly good, but maybe this is actually what I am. A volume guy. Still, nobody will look at 5000 images, so I will somehow have to sort them, even without any idea…



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