I had been invited to hold a lecture at a German Academy of Fine Arts to introduce my work. The lecture was part of an job application regarding a tenure as a teacher for photography.
The main questions after my lecture were: Yes my photographs are beautiful, but where is their surplus value beyond that? To translate this question: where is the art in my art?
The second question was: do I really intend to teach photography? The job description was: Professur für Fotografie.To reduce the absurdity of this question I have to translate again: do you really want to send your students out into the wild to take photographs?
Teaching photography is not about sending students anywhere. Teaching photography is about helping students to discover the traces their “self” has already left behind in their visual work. Teaching photography means: to assist students on their road to find out about their way of working. Teaching photography means: to assist the students to find a language of their own and to help them to discover the topics they want to deal with.
I simply wasn´t prepared to answer this kind of questions. I knew the second after I have left the room, that my invitations had been a strange kind of misunderstanding.
The Academy is settled far away from any urban life, it is surrounded by homes of the well to do. This is mirroring the background of my questioners. In their minds art is fine art. My work referring heavily to reality and to the “conditio humana” is just too photographic in their eyes, hence it is no art.
This thinking is simply part of the art world as I have got to know it. As long photography doesn’t mimic the strategies common in the art world, it won´t be accepted as art. That´s the way the cookie crumbles.
The dOCUMENTA 13 presented artists, whose concern was to resist society as it is or to look for alternatives. Though I can become very enthusiastic about art for the art´s sake, my troubled life when I was young and now the demands on me to make a living led me to an never ending confrontation with reality.
One of the remarks regarding my work was that I am focusing on deprived areas. (sozialen Brennpunkten) This was not meant positively. What a shame.
I also was asked was if I define myself as documentary photographer. It´s obvious that it was meant as a no-no. Anyway, the answer should be obvious to anybody not wearing blindfolders.
I never intended to become an artist, and I have no need to run around with this label. What I am trying to do is grasp life through my work. My topic are inner realities. My topic is what we are and how we live.
Though I love art, and it is an important part of my life, its just a part of it. Working as an artist is a great occupation. But there is more to life than art. There is joy and pain, there is the everyday, and there are people whose profession is to care for other people.
Don´t forget the people.