The exhibition ERDE,WIND & FEUER is currently showing at Noplace Gallery in Oslo ( www.noplace.no ) until 07.12.
This is a short curated preview of the 1st part in my long term family project.
During the past 4 years I have traveled across Europe searching for tracks of my family history. The destinations brought me to the Donietsk area in Ukraine, Gliwice in Poland, the town Essen in Germany and finally home in Oslo. I travelled by train to all destinations, since train journeys played a central role in my family’s existence. With film and my Leica R9 I documented the fast changing views of Europe through the train window, all the way from Oslo down to Debalzewo in Ukraine. My Grandfather died there in a camp in 1945 together with 60.000 other Upper-Salesians. He was the age of 45 when he was deported from Gliwice (Gleiwitz before), which marked the border area to Poland before the 2nd world war. In February 16th he stepped down from the doorstep, left his family behind (wife and 4 children) and never saw them again. With the help of a friend, who also buried him after he died in Ukraine, his diary found it´s way back to his wife. He wrote it day by day in the period of his deportation, which ended after 10 month on 5th of October 1945.
The show at Noplace contains five images, which are placed in two different rooms in order to create a «Distance» ! The photographs are in different sizes and each of them has its own function. Furthermore I am very glad that my grandfather, Walter, has his own photograph among these five pictures. It actually is the first image in the project! My opinion is that this is a beautiful photograph, which he took of his family on vacation in the mountains back in 1942. This was three years before his deportation in February 1945. He mentioned his family constantly in his diary and his longing and hope to see them again was unbearable.
Many images come into my mind while reading such a strong document as this diary. The long and inhuman train transports, the work in the coal mines, hunger and starvation and the general living conditions. The escape through the woods and being sentence to death by very hard work in a metal plant.
In each of the four countries I used a different photographic and technical approach. For me it was important, that my approach to a theme was reflected in the technical reproduction as well. The Ukrainian part is that one, which goes mostly back in time and the choice for a large format camera felt authentic. Large format is the way, how photography was born and is definitely the most physical of all the four. The process is slow and demanding and beside you need to carry a lot of equipment.
Additionally, I decided to go for the Tri-color technique which is fragile and demands fully dedication in each step. I wanted a challenge and I felt the need to to earn my images and it shouldn’t feel too easy either. In the end I was travelling on a territory, where many humans lost their lives, and unfortunately losing these days again.
Most of the deported Salesians worked mainly in coal mines as coal turned into gold by selling it further. This again reflects the decision to use tricolour, which turns black and white photography during the process into color. Furthermore it allows your to see color photography in its purest way. It was discovered by Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin Gorsky and I found it motivating to use his approach on the Russian influenced territory. Three black and white films are exposed with the three ground colors, then developed and scanned. Then the process is controlled by help of the computer. It sounds easy, but can be an intense and long term process. At the same time it represents a contemporary approach, and reflects our longing for analogue closeness in a fully digital controlled world.
Parallel to my large format equipment I used a Leica Monochrom. It was mainly used on a tripod since the tricolour process demands steadiness. I don t see the results a tricolour image produce as an effect. For me these images caring time and are created purely by light and the influence of wind. Moving parts will always be visible in a tricolour image. It is not just about that. Some of them took over one hour of exposure time.While the large format results are created by a long process during exposure and postproduction, the monochrome delivers very fast results so I could view my results almost every day in the evening at the hotel.
The image of the diary is photographed with a Leica S and the Summarit 70 mm lens. I wanted to show the original size of the book in a wider framed surrounding. The image should depict the diary´s scale and his tiny hand writing. For the exhibition I selected a special page from his diary, which Walter Heinisch wrote the 3rd of May 1945.
“The morning soup was very thin and unsubstantial, only water with 1 tablespoon of rye porridge in it. In addition, there was 1/4 lt. russ. tea, 100 gr bread and 2 biscuits. The biscuits were probably on the occasion of Polish National Day. A big scam is the bread ration of 700 gr for 2 people. If you work in the camp, you should receive 500gr each! But you are not allowed to complain. I am writing signposts for the camp. Exactly 2 of them stating: “no through way” and 1: “The emptying of water or any other contamination in the vicinity of the building is strictly forbidden”. For material I only have a piece of old cardboard and 1 small pencil. Here there are just orders, how you do it is up to you. At noon I received the gift of a soup, just imagine, only water without any content. You just get weaker day by day. At 6pm we were ordered out into the camp compound, supposedly for 10 minutes. Announcement. We were there for at least 1 hour and a roll was called. After they had finished counting, we had to form a circle and were told the following: Hitler, Dr. Goebbels, and the General Staff have all shot themselves; the brother of Dr. Goebbels was captured with 27 men. Surrounding Berlin 120 000 men were captured. Furthermore, we were told not to dream about going home since no orders have come from above. But we were informed that mineshaft no. 10 was good but XI was performing badly. If there is no improvement in the extraction, people will not earn enough to pay for the camp’s food. And thus it is expected to be deprived of food. At the moment the question of food and accommodation came up, the officers chose to leave. At 7pm we received the evening soup, only 1/2 lt. of hot water”.