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What about a concept?

Apologies for not having written for some time. Beside moving I have been busy with our last group exhibition ZEITKOLORIT. It was the result of a photography class with the German photographer Eva Bertram where everybody could work on a free chosen project for a year. Pictures and the seven different concepts were discussed once a month within the group and with good advice from the instructor we moved on. The last three months were dedicated exclusively to the preparation of our exhibition: Which wall for which project? Which size? How many pictures? Framed or not? Printed on which paper? Lots of questions to decide upon. In the end, it looked as if each project was exactly on the wall it belonged with the right number of pictures, size, frame or not etc. I guess this is the strength of experience curating art exhibitions. Thanks, Eva !

But what I want to write about today is the notion of concept. I know people who like taking pictures and who take good and interesting pictures, sometimes on concrete issues, sometimes abstract, the same way I have been doing for many years. What made the biggest shift in my work was the notion of concept. And I would like to give some examples from our above-mentioned class.

A concept can develop accidentally, but then it is important to pursue it. Most impressive to me was the project of Gabriele Kahnert who for personal reasons was not in the mood for Christmas celebrations many years ago. Instead, she took her camera and started taking pictures on Christmas day. For 24 years this became a routine wherever she was and whatever she did. During our photography class she focused mainly on the editing i.e. choosing the pictures and sequence for a great book which shows 24 years of photography on December, 24. The book cover comes here:

This is, of course, a real long-term project. But you can do something much smaller. The most important is to have an overarching idea that holds the pictures together. Without that it would only be a bunch of photographs put away in a drawer.

Another concept I liked was Zorana Mušikić’s trip to Siberia “Ghosts along the dead track”. She photographed the remains of a railway build by prisoners under the Stalin dictatorship in the far north. Within that project she focused on three aspects: the railway track, the remains of the GULAGs and the people living in the villages beside and, last but not least, the oil and gas exploitation today. These three subthemes which were visually presented on three adjacent, but different walls, made the very broad subject comprehensible and the large number of pictures digestible.

No, you do not have to travel to Sibiria ! But try to find a topic, one idea, one special aspect for your next trip or on your daily walks. Rather than taking pictures of sights everybody takes and of which you can buy postcards, take pictures of something else that you find intriguing about your destination. Focus on one topic and make a small, but strong selection later on. If you like interacting with people, take portraits and tell a story. I tried that for the first time on my trip to Kirgizstan a few years ago. I decided to take photographs only during our three-day hike in the highlands from yurt to yurt and write down what the people whom we stayed with told me. It was just a little exercise, but I liked the outcome which you can see in my series Jailoo. Although it is just a small selection, I believe this is much better than a diverse mix of photographs from different places in Kirgizstan.

Looking forward to your ideas!

Have a good summer,


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