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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There Are Too Many Images III: New Photography 2015

This is the press-conference on the opening of the latest installements on this ongoing series of exhibitions. New Photography was started 30 years ago by John Szarkowski when the times were very different: It is nowadays a herculanean attempt to get a grip on what’s going on in photography right now.

At least from these remarks, I don’t have any idea if they did a good job with navigating this ocean: You get the usual art-bla-bla and name-droppping(the “liquid image”, quoting Jeff Wall, although he said that in a completely different context and had a very precise idea of what he meant, not this wishy-washy metaphor of the “ocean of images”; the post-internet age, which is basically just a summary for the people for which the internet has become something that is “just there” and is no longer a topic in itself), evasive answers to the selection-process: At least from this press-conference I got the impression that they have no idea why they selected one photographer and left out another. But maybe, that is the theme here: That there no theme here and no concept.

Still, it’s the MoMa, so if you want to know what goes on and what will sell in the upcoming years, you probably have to look at that…

PS: And let me add here, that I have absolutely no idea why they have chosen the Oskar Schlemmer image as a background. Quentin Bajac briefly mentions Kracauer, but from this remark I cannot really defer if this is just a name-dropping or if there is an actual connection between Kracauer/Schlemmer/Bauhaus and this exhibition: From what I got he’s only using it to show the continuity of this feeling of being overwhelmed by a torrent of images. Is this just sloppy or am I just not understanding something here?!


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That Naughty Thing

“I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do… when I first did it I felt very perverse.”

— Diane Arbus

I picked up this quote from an Article in the Guardian on Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera. Since I got wasted by that sobering experience that is reading Susan Sontag’s “On Photography, I seem to be stumbling every so often on articles on the ethics and the perceived emptiness of Photography.

There is this interview on Bruce Gilden’s series “Two Days in Appalachia”, for which he got flamed big time as superficial and exploitative and violating the ethics of documentary and photojournalism. Like he’d care…

And then there is this article in the Huffington Post that bemoans the emptiness of what we got used to call streetphotography. Philipp Lorca diCorcia has his own, mostly indifferent, views on the genre.

And finally I stumbled upon this this disgusting video of Jason Lanier walking through an ethiopian church:

I cannot really tell you, what I found so disgusting about it: His arrogance, his ignorance off his surrounding, his bragging, his entourage waltzing through the church, the fact that he does not know anything about the oppressive system of the churches, that has hauntedEthiopia for centuries now, his gear-whoring. It probably isn’t that bad, and it only appears like it in the light of this black-clothed, ill-tempered woman Susan Sontag, who just seems to be disgusted with most of human endeavours. And rightfully so.

And to top it all off, I yesterday killed what’s left of my good, well-meaning, optimistic mood with watching Amy, the film that depicts the short life of Amy Whinehouse. It’s not like the paparrazzi actually killed her, she obviously did this on her own, but they certainly presented themselves here again as some of the more disgusting members of the human species.

Ethics – in photography or otherwise – is a continuum, with all lines blurry and no clear answers: but there are days, when it feels like the scale between making a picture or letting it be tips heavily into the direction of putting the camera down for good…

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Aschau, July 2015

I’ve been on holidays. In the mountains. As I was nurturing my constant shooting-crisis (why shoot? empty pictures? relevance?) that I’ve had for a while now when shooting on the street, working in the solitude and emptiness of the mountains came as quite a relief. So I shot mostly landscape, cows, dead wood. I was much more at ease with myself, compared to how I feel when I run the streets of a city. I’m not exactly a country type of guy, but this change of pace came at the right time for me.

Apart from just sitting there and looking at the mountains, I also brought some nurture: I brought a rather ripped-off reprint of William Klein’s “Life is Good and Good for You in New York”: The original seems to be out of print for a while now, and they also couldn’t get hold of the original printing block, so they just re-photographed the book. While it is certainly better to have this book than not having it all, the smaller format and the shrinked double-pages take away a lot of the power of the original. Still, one of the greatest…

Also brought Susan Sontag’s “On Photography”. If the book had been about food, it would have certainly have spoiled my appetite to the point of starvation. I’m not sure why she felt compelled to write a book on photography, when it is so obvious, that she didn’t like any aspect of it. She makes some valid points though; it rips some of the more pompous talks, that has become the cliché, when photographers talk about why they do what they do. It’s like a cleansing ritual – you probably have to go through some adversity like this book and when you come out on the other side and still want to shoot, than you’re really dedicated.


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Stuck in the 70ies

…or somewhere in between the 60ies and the 70ies, as I got the golden age of the Rolling Stones (Beggar’s Banquet, Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers and Goats Head Soup) on constant rotation right now. Sweet Virginia somehow seems to be fitting when temperatures are dangling around 40 degrees Celsius and any conscious attempt at taking a photo has been dissolved in the jelly my brain has turned into…

I could never really shake the feeling to be strangely out-of-time and out-of-place. And it doesn’t get better with the ancient 1955 Leica M3 I drag around and this Robert-Frank-Nostalghia that I can’t seem to get rid of. If you look at too many old pictures, you loose your feeling for now. Or your interest. Or both.

And yes, I know that Robert Frank has been to Valencia long before I went there and so my own pictures feel a little ephemeral… The Beauty of our times is that all that has come before us is at our fingertips – but this is also a curse. It does not get much easier when you’re constantly plagued by the feeling, that everything you have done has been done before, only better. So, why take a picture at all.


After searching for a more or less complete copy of Robert Frank/Rolling Stones Cocksucker Blues, I found this article on their corporation on the cover of Exile On Main Street. It is sometimes funny how things move in synchronicity….

And if you are looking for something too read: “Photography Within The Humanities” has a quirky title, but it brings together interviews with some of the most important figures of photography in the 70ies (apert from Robert Frank, John Szarkowski, Curator at the MoMa at that time, Susan Sontag, Irving Penn…).

And it all started out with this article in the NY Times on Robert Frank and The Americans…







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Valencia, April 2015



Now it is no accident that the photographer becomes a photographer any more than the lion tamer becomes a lion tamer. Just as there is a necessary element of hazard in one, in the other is a necessary element of the mechanical. For better or for worse, the destiny of the photographer is bound up with the destinies of a machine. In this alliance is presented a very special problem. Ours is a time of the machine, and ours is a need to know that the machine can be put to creative human effort. If it is not, the machine can destroy us. It is within the power of the photographer to help prohibit this destruction, and help make the machine an agent of more good than of evil. Though not a poet, nor a painter, nor a composer, he is yet an artist, and as an artist undertakes not only risks but responsibility. And it is with responsibility that both the photographer and his machine are brought to their ultimate tests. His machine must prove that it can be endowed with the passion and the humanity of the photographer; the photographer must prove that he has the passion and the humanity with which to endow the machine.

This certainly is one of the great questions of our time. Upon such an endowment of the mechanical device may depend not only the state of the present but the prospects of the future. The photographer is privileged that it is a question which in his work he can help to answer.

But does he?

Unfortunately, very often not. For in his natural zeal to master his craft, he has too long relied upon the technical to engage his energies. Now the technical has relaxed its challenge, he is often left with the feeling that there is nowhere to go. He is lost; he is confused; he is bewildered. Accustomed to discovery, now suddenly he is obliged to interpret.

—-dorothea lange

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Windows or Mirrors?

Photography as exploration vs. Photography as Illustration

The first approach makes no assumption about what is there, it is open and waits for the subject to speak for itself.

The second attempts to visualize an idea: It is looking into the subject to find an expression for what has already been defined. It uses the subject as a vessel for an emotion or an idea.

Neither of these approaches is pure: The subject will never only speak for itself, as you can only listen to the things you are made to hear.

And no matter how much effort you put into moulding the world into a shape, there will be remains. A substance you did not put there. The subject will always resist your effort to use it as a vehicle for your ideas. It will taint your thoughts and speak with its own voice, even if you make it speak your words.

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Landscape Is Changing


Here I go, back and forth: Not photographing people comes more natural to me; it always takes a conscious effort to invade other peoples privacy. I shy away and resort to images void of people.

Taking a picture of someone is a very intimate undertaking. I often shy away, I am often afraid. I end up with shots where I am too far away, too distant. How does this reflect on your general stance towards society? Remote, distanced, issues with closeness?

Learning to photographs is very much about learning something about yourself…


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