I am a photographer. I was born somewhere in southern Germany while my parents were on the road, which means my place of birth, unlike most people, is not directly relevant to my biography. The relationship between my camera and me is a symbiotic one. Since 1984 I have been living and working in Berlin, also in symbiosis with this city.
The eye of my birth, the birth of my eye
The rather strange circumstances of my birth have instilled in me a certain on the road mentality. I am a passenger, a traveler, on the move, curious, in a permanent state of transit. The downside of this is a deep sense of unrest, a feeling of being driven. Serenity and patience are characteristics that I first had to learn through trial and error.
When I immerse myself in other perspectives and worlds, I allow myself to become engrossed in whatever I encounter with an almost obsessive abandonment of self. Absorbing situations, succumbing unconditionally to the experience is what, despite a great deal of hurt and many wounds from life, has marked my path since birth. It has remained with me, and it characterizes the focus to which I give expression through the lens of a camera.
„The crack is where the light gets in.“ – Leonhard Cohen
Seeing means perceiving of something, being cognizant and having knowledge of it—and it is a process that always flows in two directions. Life and existence are like a flower to me, a flower that blossoms again and again, in always new forms and colors, its fragrance permeating my very being, filling it up and setting me free. My eye smells, my eye touches, it hears, it speaks, it chews and tastes, it kisses and laughs, it recognizes and sees, it loves and weeps; but sometimes it spits, or farts as well –
It is true that the lens protects the soul that is me, fostering the strange being that manifests itself and is reflected in my eye. And yet, at the same time, the lens draws my soul into that which it observes, experiences, identifies, tastes, sees and feels—less abruptly than would be the case without the camera, but nevertheless constantly, evenly and irretrievably. It is the death and rebirth of my eye, which is continuously changing and renewing. A metamorphosis, an ongoing shedding of the skin.
Berlin, my love
Berlin is my chosen hometown. I love the people who live here, I love the mentality that pervades this city, its freakiness, its eroticism and its openness—sometimes also marked by a certain who gives a damn towards those who are different. Berlin is on the River Spree – and living here is like being on a spree – heady, tumultuous, always very slightly out of control. One of the reasons I fell undyingly in love with this city. When I was gifted a single-lens reflex camera, I used it to explore Berlin like I would explore the body of a lover, breathing in its skin, tracing its lines and its curves. The body does not lie. And that applies just as readily to the body of a city as it does to any other physical entity. Our body memorizes and reflects the history of our wounds, dreams, feelings, encounters and thoughts. – Lost Places drew my attention more than anywhere else back then. Decadence, history, renaturation and transformation: the story of Berlin has written itself in a very special way into these deserted places abandoned to the ravages of time. However, the lost places are by no means unused. They are a meeting place, and a symbol of adventure and the forbidden. They make a statement about and also overwrite the symbols of the past, not least through street art. In particular, however, they have been “overwritten” by nature, which has reconquered and assimilated them. Roots break through the soil, tree branches grow through windows, fracturing the light in a peculiarly beautiful way. The space is like a skin. As if nature wanted to embrace the buildings in an act of penetration, ingesting and metabolizing them. Penetration! Like a certain look, when two pairs of eyes melt together to become one! Penetration and transformation! Touch! No profound or genuine encounter remains without consequence! Which is also true when the present encounters the past.
The captivated eye
It is also in Berlin that I had my first encounters with BDSM. Female dominance and male submission have always fascinated me, have always followed me. Since childhood. The same is true of sexual identity. I have never felt myself to be only a man. I see myself as, and I feel like, a fluid being that can take on different forms.
„We are not born as a woman (or a man)“ – Simone de Beauvoir
I have always longed to be overcome by women, penetrated, taken possession of and appropriated—mentally, emotionally, physically.
To be penetrated in every imaginable way. BDSM provides an abundance of possibilities for this, for example, when—during whipping or spanking—the energy of my dominant female partner passes over and into me. Ultimately, her unique charisma, her personality takes possession of me. She leads me, guides me, controls me, nurtures me, educates me.
She has my unconditional devotion. I am captivated by her, and I am her captive in the best possible sense. And in that captivation lies freedom! A paradox? Absolutely not. Her bliss and pleasure reflect my pleasure and bliss—a fulfilling, spiraling circle. I have never learned so much, and I have never evolved anywhere in my life more than I have in the guiding hands of women. My intuition is imprinted with “Her eroticism is superior to mine.” And that is exactly how it should be! When the connection between us is good, then her personality overwhelms me in a way that defies description.
„The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.“ – C.G. Jung
My eye is captivated in a similar way by the situations, the people, and the events that it takes in. But there is more distance. My heart is not laid bare to the same extent as it is in a BDSM relationship. While photographing, I am not as vulnerable, fragile, insecure or exposed—although being able to be all those things is a wonderful experience.
But when photographing, I SEE what I see with more than just the eye. I also see it with my heart, feel and sense intuitively the atmosphere surrounding people and events and things.
After I had spent some time photographing the lost places, street art and streets of Berlin, I began taking photographs of fetishes and fetishists. I was invited to document BDSM sessions and fetish parties. I felt the human-all-too-human in these scenarios. Sensuality, eroticism and love! Profound connections, trust, abandonment and a strong sense of responsibility within multiple perspectives—relationships with the self, with others, with things! Fulfillment, healing, and play! A lust for life and hierarchies borne by human warmth! Fears! Neuroses! Passions! The often-catalytic value of pain! Desperation, vulnerability, fragility, a deep feeling of joy and a deep feeling of sorrow! Tears that laugh with joy—laughing lips that weep!
„Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.“ – William Blake
All of that captivates my eye—also because I find myself reflected in it. And because, in it, I indirectly encounter my longings and memories. What I see carries me back to myself; what I carry within myself makes my eye an understanding and learning eye! I let myself flow like water into a bathtub. Seeing means learning to perceive and gain knowledge of somthing, to appreciate and to love it.
Seeing is a task that renders the invisible visible. It transforms the eye.
„It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again “invisibly,” inside us. We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible.“ – Rilke
And is the image itself not a fetish, a magical object that casts a spell on us, enlivens us and gives us strength. Somebody once said that we should transpose reality into fetishes, because in fetishes we can make the mysterious, the beautiful, the delightful and the fragile sensually and erotically tangible.
„I am not interested in deconsecrating: this is a fashion I hate, it is petit-bourgeois. I want to reconsecrate things as much as possible, I want to re-mythicize them.” – Pasolini
Arte documentary with me talking about fetishism from time stamp 10:00
The lens as a magnifying glass
Conceive comes from the Latin word concipere. Its original meanings include ‘to grasp, to receive, to become pregnant, to catch, to express something in a particular way, to imagine something’. I express something particular in a certain image, in a vision. Something that I have received, that I bear within me like a growing infant, something I reflect on, that I find existential, is focused on through the lens transforming it through an editorial process into a picture. And yet it is right, for other reasons, to speak of conceptual photography, of a photography that conceives something and bears it out. In the photo sessions themselves, more transpires than merely the idea I bring along with me. The process is like a shared birth, it is a team effort. What unfolds before the camera is always concrete, vivid, unique. People, moods, moments, light, colors, structures, objects are directly involved, are themselves occurrences, encounters. Both the photo session and shooting a video are basically a journey, an experiment, and the ideas—in which my worldview, my experience and experiences, my thoughts and emotions are reflected—create the framework for it. No more, no less. It is only a framework. Because, when the photo session or filming gets underway, everything changes again. And again during editing.
There is nothing unpolitical about any of it. When I show transgender people, then the appreciative view of them is a political statement. When I present mythical beings, in particular goddesses or hybrid beings like Erinyes, Sirens, Medusa, Persephone, Centaurs in today’s dystopian world, then that is also a political statement. This is similar with topics that address the symbiosis between human and animal, which not only manifests itself in BDSM petplay.
It also becomes very clear in femdom, female domination and feminism.
„Feminism is a revolution . . . Feminism is a collective adventure, for women, men, and everyone else. A revolution, well under way. A worldview. A choice. It’s not a matter of contrasting women’s small advantages with men’s small assets, but of sending the whole lot flying. And with that I bid you goodbye, girls, and a better journey.“ -Virginie Despentes
There is nothing unpolitical in life. We are all embedded within a societal web. So, how can we not be moved when somewhere in that web the threads begin to quiver? And how should our own movements and everything we have to give remain without effect?
Last but not least: I love life. Fears are there to be overcome. I love love and the erotic. Love is often only a word. But it becomes a powerful word when it enters the language of our gestures, our facial expressions and our actions. Beauty is sometimes so beautiful that it is excruciating. Joy is sometimes so great that it brings tears to our eyes. That which is dark is often full of light. And a great deal that appears to be clear and bright is dark and abysmal. It is in the light of this experience that I photograph.