Monday 3 November 2014

Markus Lehr

Berlin, Germany

What do you find most fascinating about industrial structures and installations?

Their character(s) spark my imagination. Every corner and perspective challenges me to go further and dig a little deeper. There is so much history and human ingenuity condensed in a relatively small place.

Especially when looking through ‘Modern Ruins’, I was under the impression that you are interested in capturing different ‘textures’ of (built) materials and monuments. Would you agree?

Definitely. Textures and surfaces are also what I am working on most in post-processing. It feels be a bit like looking at human skin. Delicate and desirable.

What do you find most challenging about shooting under difficult lighting conditions?

There are two things I am often struggling with: Flares and ghosts. If you are out at night there are sometimes only one or two sources of light and the contrast is very high, too. This often results in some colourful reflections inside your glass. Sometimes I like that, but more often I find it distractive and rather try avoiding it. You need a good lens and some techniques to help you with that.

You write that you strive to portray humanity without actually showing humans. What would including persons in your pictures change about them?

Everything! I think humans would distract immensely from the main content I want to show. Usually we look at humans first and often we relate everything to them. Even if they are completely out of focus or hidden in an image, we always spot them and focus our attention on them. I prefer to show the effect of humans on a given space. I prefer to let our traces speak about us.

You live and work in Berlin. Do you have a favourite neighbourhood/quarter/spot in the city to spend your leisure time in?

I especially like Schöneberg because of the mix of cultural influences there. This quarter is not as 'hip' as Kreuzberg or Friedrichshain, but a bit more relaxed and easy going. I like that.

Since starting to engage in photography, did you find that your everyday view on your surroundings had changed? If yes, how so?

Well, I concentrated very much on the night in the first year of shooting. That had quite an impact on my way of seeing things: For the first time I noticed the difference that light can make. I started to see interesting places and corners in areas I usually simply passed by. It is fascinating to enter the backyard of a house in the neighbourhood and discover a whole new little world there.

Which artists' works are you watching closely?

Maybe Edward Burtynsky and Gregory Crewdson, but there are many not so well known contemporary artists, who have inspired me more. It is the little things they see, a slightly different focus or a very dedicated appreciation of where you are coming from, but mostly it's something I cannot put into words.

When you feel that you are absentminded, what helps you focus again?

I try to stay away from any kind of photographic things for a little while. I do something else like reading or listening to music for a few days. And then after a while I automatically get that urge to get out and being outside again - it always works. One other thing I regularly practise is to challenge myself with a complete new and different task: For example, after I had been busy with industrial and urban scenery for months, one weekend I went out into the forest and tried to capture only the trees for a couple of days. My perspective on urban spaces shifted after that.

Do you buy magazines or rather read them online?

I think I stopped buying magazines four or five years ago. I only buy books.

All is fair in ...

... the night.

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