Images and Words

April 16, 2011

The relationship of image and words and the importance of each is something I thought about quite a lot, not just because of my last project If you are lucky, you get old. When I read yesterday an interview of Paolo Woods in Photonews I felt he got to the heart of what I couldn’t put into words before.

The interview is also in general highly recommend to read (at least for German speakers), I find his view on photojournalism for once encouraging and his way to approach projects truly inspiring.

I believe that image and text express different things and that you can’t substitute the one for the other. I find it very exaggerated, when somebody claims an image says more than thousand words. It is ridiculous to believe you can tell a story just with images. Whoever claims that, assumes the viewer already knows what is pictured. 

Paolo Woods in Photonews

Paolo collaborates with the author Serge Michel to develop text and images for a project.

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OK, I might be a bit obsessed at the moment with Alec Soth and am turning into a groupie I haven’t been, since being fifteen years old and adoring A-HA . But I am currently reading the book From Here To There about his work and find it really interesting and inspiring.

It gives a great overview about Alec Soth, also about his very early work. I like especially Siri Engberg’s article (see post below) and totally enjoyed the interview with him called “Dismantling my career”.

I would like to share some quotes. Perhaps somebody else finds it as interesting as me (maybe at least Rebecca?:))

“Photography is a very lonely medium. There’s a kind of beautiful loneliness in voyeurism.”

“I like the idea of the process. And I’m less interested in the masterpiece, or the icon.”

“This is the highly problematic nature of what I am doing. I’m using real people, real lives to create my little art project. It’s a problematic medium. It’s the Arbus problem”

“We are all using the same machines, and by doing it over and over and over again, you find your own voice but it’s just modestly different than somebody else’s. “

“I always used to lecture about how photographs can’t tell stories, because they are these fragmentary moments in time, and so you can’t get any kind of arc to a story. You are making these little points and you’re pushing the viewer to make connections between them. It’s not true storytelling.”

“I think photography is the most anti-Zen activity. It’s all about stopping time, possessing things, holding onto them. (…) If my goal was to be a healthy person, photography would not be the thing.”


Photos as Poems

November 10, 2010

I am thinking at the moment quiet a bit about what I am actually drawn to in photography within my own practice but also in others.

As mentioned I really do like Alec Soths work although I was pretty disappointed by his (daughters) project in Brighton Photo Biennale! 

But in general I do love his approach and the tension in his photos which Siri Engberg describes as a poetic friction. I never thought about his work as poems or of photographs as poems in general. For me this is as a very inspiring thought, which I find worth mentioning here, so I don’t forget…

What I believe is really good in the so called documentary approach in photography is the addition of lyricism (Evans).


© Alec Soth

Inner Outer Land

October 19, 2010

It took a little bit of time to put into words, why I am so drawn to the canals in East London. Below you can read in a blurb what the whole project is about. As mentioned I’ll exhibit part of it with others from our 189 Collective from the 22nd October until the 14th November in the Apiary Studios. The Opening will be on the 22nd from 7pm till 10pm. There is some really nice work there. So come!

In my project I explore the landscape of the canals and surrounding sites in East London. I am particularly drawn to this area for its beauty, which is different from the perfectly ordered English gardens and parks, or the wild, uncivilized nature of oceans, mountains and forests.

The further you follow the canals to the northeast, the more indecisive the landscape seems to become, blurring between civilization and wilderness, tidiness and negligence, classical beauty and morbidity.

The city appears and disappears trying to juxtapose nature and centuries of human urbanization.

© Freya Najade

© Freya Najade


“A static image [..] is never the same as the person or the moment I’ve tried to describe. In fact, these subjects, and these moments are new stories. The process itself is theater, and among other things, the photograph has a life of its own. It is a document of nothing, really. What is true and what is invented are constantly overlapping and indiscernible.” (Katy Grannan)

Ghent, NY

© Katy Grannan

Yesterday night on the bus home I had to think about an article of Miguel Garcia-Guzman on his blog Exposure Compensation. In the article he described so nicely why it is so difficult to take pictures of something that you are used to and always surrounded by. I had thought about this issue a lot in the past. But reading Garcia-Guzman article made so clear to me why taking pictures of the every day is one of the most difficult things.

“The more you see something the less you actually see it. In ways, it is like sensory sensitization, similar to the process that eliminates the cutaneous mechanical sensation of wearing clothes over the body, you feel it at the start but very soon your brain ignores it. Visual information follows the same path, with a distinctive ability of the brain to reduce attention to the things you see every day, your common surroundings, your family, your lifestyle. It is challenging to find the amusing out of things that have become routine, it is like an impossible exercise to see what you see everyday in a different way.  For this reason I find remarkable when a photographer is able to create art out of his/her place or his/her people.”

Jim Goldberg – Open See

February 1, 2010

I visited on the weekend the show Open See from Jim Goldberg in the Photographers Gallery. I actually just had stopped by for a quick look and to warm up from the crazy cold outside because I had thought I wouldn’t be so much into his work. Without having any expectations I really liked it and found his approach quite inspiring.

In Open See Goldberg documents the experiences of people who travel from war torn, socially and economically devastated countries, to make new lives in Europe. They have left often violent, oppressive, poverty-stricken or AIDS ravaged communities, in search of stability and the promise of a better future.

What I liked the most about Goldberg’s approach that he combined so many different media such as Polaroids, video, written text, ephemera, large and medium format photographs to document the topic he was interested in. The Polaroids were often defaced and written on by the people they portray. The words and images combined to tell intimate stories of past and present experiences. Faces and features are sometimes scratched out, coloured in, or marked in some way.

I had to think of my project If you are lucky, you get old and how I felt that just photographs are sometimes such limitation to tell stories of the people I met. I was already thinking then that I should include text written by the elderly about their past, dreams or feelings and to combine it with their picture. When I will continue the project I will definitely keep Jim Goldberg in mind.

Tomorrow our exhibition will come down. Time to share my book and thoughts about my project “If you are lucky, you get old”.

In August I mentioned that I made the decision to do a project about elderly gays, since I felt nobody really thought of old people as being homosexual. But also in general in my surroundings and every day life old people seemed to be invisible. I couldn’t feel their presence although I knew that they were somewhere there. Thinking of them or of myself becoming old made me worried and pitiful. Wrinkles, disease and decay came to mind. What actually happened to the times when the old were the wise and taught the young about life? Having so little knowledge about the elderly, I went out to retirement communities in the U.S. to find out more. First I went to a gay retirement home in Portland. After spending a week there I travelled to Palm Springs where I stayed for around 5 weeks meeting old people in senior centres.

To my surprise, the elderly I met were not just proud of their age and the fact that they made it that far in life, they were also still falling in love and breaking up. They were overcoming their lifetime partner’s death, living out their erotic fantasies or dealing with the loss of their sexual desire. Talking to them showed me that inner growths is ever lasting and that humans even above the age of seventy continue to love, suffer, long, dream and have sexual feelings.

In my project ‘If you are lucky, you get old’, I decided finally to capture encounters with the elderly and to tell stories of those I spent time with. To not create just another segregated and enclosed group I eventually decided to open the project up and to focus on both straight and queer seniors. Here you can have a look inside the book. I am pretty happy with it to be honest.

“The problem with photographing rocks is how to make work that expresses and evokes something more than woolly romanticism. It can be done – rocks as well as city streets have meanings, and important meaning for us” (Badger, 2007).

I have to admit that I am getting more and more into landscape pictures. Landscape photographs embodied for me mostly what is described above as woolly romanticism. I realise that even my confession “to be into landscape pictures” is not free of shame. However, this whole attitude towards this genre is obviously very ignorant and unjust, considering that already many landscape photographers distant themselves from capturing a picturesque idyll.

©Freya Najade

©Freya Najade

©Freya Najade

Gay and Lesbian Elderly

August 6, 2009

My new project will be about gay and lesbian seniors. There exists so little photography about the elderly in general and of gay and lesbian elderly there are hardly no pictures at all. With my project I attempt to make this group, which is mostly unvisible visible.

Richard Renaldi did some nice work about this topic: http://www.renaldi.com/portfolio/elderly1.html:

Roy and William john and fred

And I also love the work of Naomi Harris, who documented the last hotel in South Beach that catered to senior citizens. The project, called “Haddon Hall Hotel ” received The International Prize for Young Photojournalism. I feel her pictures are humorous but also sensitive. Check it out on her hompage: http://www.naomiharris.com

naomi harris

Naomi Harris 2