Photographic Essays


The idea for the project My Travel Experiences stroke me during my trip to India in 2011, when I was once again stressed by crowds of people, by jam-packed streets, buses and trains and by the lack of distance between people in dealing with each other. I was looking for a photographic way to turn that experience into pictures. Simply depicting reality did not work, the images did not contain the hustle and bustle, and they did not reflect my inner life. In the end, it became a heterogeneous series of pictures that use a variety of stylistic elements, yet reflect my experience. On the one hand I tried to write my photo essay by extreme close-ups, showing only sections of reality, on the other hand by erratic change between impressions and, moreover, through objective documentation of population density.

More important was that I returned from India with a concept for a project. And that solved a general photographic problem of my travels. I usually visit places to photograph specifically for a particular topic. For example, I knew that because of the nature of the site at the White Sands National Monument I would be able to create images for the Contemplationes project. Moreover, even when traveling from another reason, I am more or less intentionally looking for images for long-term projects like Contemplationes, Constructiones, Geopolis or Formationes. And finally, every journey is an experience by itself, and it originates more or less sophisticated images as impressions of this trip. Often, ideas for new projects result from the fact that I take pictures aimlessly and am inspired through the results to new projects.

But what to do with images that come out when traveling, but cannot be assigned to a project and won’t be the starting point of a new project (apart from the fact that you cannot constantly start new projects because you won't be able to manage it). Sometimes I can make use of single images or small series on certain occasions, e. g. for didactic purposes. But be careful not to end up with Uncle Theo’s notorious pell-mell best-of-holiday slideshow. Therefore, it is a good idea to restrict yourself thematically and to make the respective journey itself to the topic and by that to a project, making use of being on the road, being on the move and the unfamiliar environment to channelize inspiration. It is important that it is an individual, personal experience. I do not want to show the fact that stave churches are typical of Norway, even if this were a restriction to one topic. The photographic result must be related to me and my experience.

A second reason why I launched this separate internet gallery is that my commitment to a high image quality on my main personal website, my homepage, strongly limits the options of image presentation. There I have a very rigid standard of creative quality, I am very slow and conservative in deciding of what I accept for my body of artistic work and show on the website. And that’s a good thing, because often, after initial enthusiasm, I assessed an idea or a concept differently after some time of viewing and thinking, and I was glad that I did not put the pictures created in such a moment directly on my homepage. Otherwise it would be flooded with started and discontinued projects. Off the record, the Reflectiones photo series is a bit of a project like that. Although I am still convinced of the concept, for technical and creative reasons it is very difficult for me to continue working on this series. Therefore: For me, there had to be a kind of an experimental ground, that enabled me to show even less mature and less ambitious pictures and thus also to document the permanent photographic flow. Quite apart from the fact that today anyway every picture is posted immediately anytime, anywhere. My Travel Experiences is in some ways in-between the canonized museum image or my main homepage on one side and a quickly posted Instagram or Facebook picture on the other side, in-between seriousness and spontaneity. Yes, I wanted to be more spontaneous.

And finally, a picture should stand by itself and it should say more than a thousand words. Some images, however, require explanation or need to be completed by words. After the first series of My Travel Experiences, I found that some people could not understand my experience without any verbal comments, but, after a few words, saw exactly that experience in the pictures. That’s why the image-text essays of My Travel Experiences are an appropriate format for me, and this format is presented in a contemporary manner in the internet. More and more the concept developed in a way that the series are presented as a tableau in rows of four in the web gallery.

It’s also interesting how the essays are made. Sometimes I have certain expectations before the trip, of what could be my central experience at the place I visit, and from the very beginning I’m trying to take pictures on that subject. In some cases, I stick to this subject, such as in Cuba in 2014 or at Spring Break in 2016, though in the latter, the accent has shifted as I became painfully aware of my old age in this environment and this aspect flew very much at least into the text. Sometimes the topic changes, too. In 2013 in Iceland, for example, I wanted to show our temporary living in a camper and on campgrounds and had already taken a lot of pictures on that. The actual reason to travel to Iceland was taking pictures for the project Constructiones. However, I realized that the crowd of people at these Constructiones places made it nearly impossible to photograph with the view camera for this project. And promptly, I had found the topic that impressed me: the streams of visitors at the scenic sights (hence the essay is called »My Island Experience II [Two!]«). This has even led to a new project, which I continue at new places: Places of Interest deals precisely with the theme, that, where we seek peace, loneliness, nature experience, we do not find it because many others are looking for it at exactly the same places. The millions of lone Steppenwolves in a sense.

It was different with »My Indianapolis Experience« (2016), where I unexpectedly found that the friendliness and helpfulness of my colleagues was the most impressive thing about my stay there. That’s why I also portrayed all my colleagues and put together these portraits in a series (»My Indianapolis Experience I«). In the end, however, the stylistic vicinity of this series of portraits to the Visiones project and the fact that I found another key experience photographically more appealing prevented me from presenting the portraits on this website.

And finally, there can be a fabulous journey, such as Norway in 2012, but there is no pivotal personal experience that could be translated into an individual photo-essay. Just taking the pictures of the magnificent scenery that extremely impressed me would not make it for this photo project. However, some of these pictures have found their way into the series Contemplationes and Constructiones.