"I try to avoid the sun"
The eye of Friederike von Rauch
"I try to avoid the sun." The statement of photographer Friederike von Rauch would seem to run counter to the very nature of photography and photographic art, but as one familiarizes oneself with her photos, a richly layered story of perception unfolds. Von Rauch, a German photographer living in Berlin, began as a silversmith and first stepped behind the camera while working as a location scout for large film productions. She works almost exclusively in black and white and always with a traditional analog camera. Her subjects, drawn from landscape and architectural environments, are important not for what they are but how she sees them and what she succeeds in drawing out of them: their essential nature. In a world where we're deluged with images, von Rauch's work helps us to learn to see.
Working with a series of self-imposed constraints von Rauch makes no changes to the world as she sees it but rather meticulously chooses her setting and patiently waits for the exact conditions that reveal her subjects. Her camera is at eye-level. She works only with natural or existing light and avoids bright sun and harsh contrast. No detail of her photo is altered or removed. Her works are painstakingly prepared and the result is akin to a meditation, a stillness that extends in time, an emptying of all that is extraneous to her personal vision.
Friederike von Rauch's photographs of spaces and landscapes have been exhibited widely throughout Europe, including at the Hafnarborg Museum, Kabinet van Cultuur, and Institute Vlaams-Nederlands Huis deBuren. A current exhibition of her work can be seen at Gallery KUNSTAGENTEN in Berlin, and she's also showing in Gallery Fifty One in Antwerp and Kunstverein Heidelberg. After visiting these three shows, New Design Times caught up with von Rauch to speak with her about life behind the lens.
NDT: In 2009, you were invited by star architect David Chipperfield to interpret his Berlin project “Neues Museum” prior to its completion. Your images were a huge success and the illustrated book published by Hatje Cantz was awarded the DAM Architectural Book Award that year. Selected pieces from 2010 are currently at Kunstagenten Galerie in the show aptly titled, “New Work”. How is this body of work different from the previous? In what direction is 2011 leading you?
FvR: Unlike my previous, very light work, the work shown in the Galerie KUNSTAGENTEN is much darker. However, I cannot predict if this is a new direction for my work. In general, I do not like to determine the next step, but benefit from having a receptive openness to future developments.
NDT: Do you use a different photographic process when shooting landscape and architecture subjects?
FvR: No, my approach remains the same – as architecture can be understood as landscape and landscape as architecture. The fascination of such a spatial interplay is the focus of my photographs. In my view and approach, in order to figure out the character of a place, it is crucial to see it calmly and critically.
NDT: You use analogue photography. Do you feel there are advantages of using non-digital photography?
FvR: I have a good working repertoire with my old analogue Rollei. It seems to me that knowing your camera well and in detail is an important prerequisite to being able to concentrate on the real matter – whether that is now digital or analog, to me is not such a decisive factor.
NDT: Do you think your education as a silversmith plays a part in your photography?
FvR: Certainly my mechanical training plays a large role in allowing the spaces I photograph to speak. It refined my accuracy and precision
NDT: The light in your photography has a trend to be very cool toned. Do you search out a certain type of lighting?
FvR: Yes, I prefer a rather cool light and the absence of shadows in architecture and landscape. One often experiences this type of light at our latitude, especially in the winter caused by a cloudy white sky.
Portraits of Friederike von Rauch: © Stefanie Schweiger
All other photos: © Friederike von Rauch
Contributing Writers for NDT: Leah Stuhltrager & Elena Gilbert
Friederike von Rauch