Reflection on my Work in the Portraits Series
The portrayed persons are people I know, people from my nearest surroundings. In taking portraits, I always try to be as direct and immediate as possible, seeking to prevent the photographs from seeming too constructed. Yet they obviously are choreographed, but not more than it seems necessary to me. When I photograph someone, it's always connected with a visit at my or their place. I talk with the people about my work, and we discuss the picture. When photographing them, I'm asking for nothing but for them to focus the camera as neutrally and concentratedly as possible. How the portrayed persons position themselves is entirely left to them.
The series has been taken in middle format 6*7, because I see a great importance in the richness of details in the pictures. The rooms with their small peculiarities, with traces of daily life or things from daily usage, all of that much more constitutes a human being to me than their mere reflection. In a way, you can take a look around the corners I present, just as when you’d be at their home. You can read the titles of books, examine some objects, you can see what’s important to the person in the picture. It is for that reason that I decided to use color, to allow for as real an account as possible. I couldn’t imagine this series being in black and white.
For me, photography is a means of reflecting about something or somebody. By doing this, I somehow get the portrayed persons, landscapes or architectural structures to stay in my mind much better, in a way. Perhaps you could say that via the tool of photography, I study the things more closely; which, in the case of shooting persons, may easily lead to doing this too one-sidedly.
On the other hand I also understand my photographs as documentaries, especially as a documentation of a situation, as a stock-taking, you could say. My pictures are intended to show the conditions people live in. Of course, the insight I provide is in no way sufficient to characterize the portrayed persons in any way, yet there's a certain psychologizing aspect unmistakably visible - and intended, indeed.
The specific standard I'm trying to uphold for this, or the aspect I intent to reflect upon, lies in the selection of the portrayed people. I'm looking for an especially concentrated gaze and the merging of human and environment. The people I show seem to be captured or enclosed by their surroundings in a way, yet they also thrive in them, meld, become one.
Thus the portrayed people also exhibit in their posture their relation with their own living conditions. That means, through my vision of the portrayed persons I'm trying to reflect both their inner relation with their living conditions, as well as my external view of both. Through the conscious construction of the pictures, the relation between the portrayed person, their surroundings and me is being reflected.
Of course, the enormous claim to individuality is apparent with the portrayed persons. And it is this individuality, this obstinacy I want to express and gain attention for. I do not only want to show that this is the way one lives, but also, this is a way one is able to live. In that, I do not want to understand my pictures as admonishing. It is rather about respecting and being respected.
May 15th / August 7th, 2001. (first posted on timescapes.de April 18th, 2001)