CHRISCHA VENUS OSWALD - INTERVIEW

Par laetitia Allal

No paradise lost

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(No) Paradise lost/Paradise 2.0, 2008



Who are you CHRISCHA ? Tell us a little about you ? What is your background ? When, how and why did you decide to become a photographer... ?

I grew up in a little town in Bavaria. It was kind of rural and I both loved (nature, comfort) and hated it (because it was so small). There wasn´t a lot of art or stuff like that to see or experience. But somehow I was just always interested in art and always wanted to go to exhibitions in the bigger cities.
When I was young I was always telling my parents that I would marry an artist when older – I was pretty sure about that, haha. Anyway, I started playing around with my Dad´s cam and broke it…
So after I assured him my deep interest in photography we decided to buy a new one, a professional SLR. That was very exciting. I had always enjoyed taking pictures and saw it as a means to cope with my not so great drawing-skills. And then when I had come across the photographs of Peter Lindbergh that were so sensual and cinematic picturing strong women I had fallen in love with photography finally.
When I was thinking about what to study I was also interested in cultural studies, art history and literature. But then I thought I wanted to actually DO something not just always learn and stuff my brains with knowledge and facts which I would forget to a big part anyway…And when thinking about what I liked doing i twas : Photography. Somehow I ended up studying Fine Arts but my main medium was mostly photography.



No paradise lost



(No) Paradise lost/Paradise 2.0, 2008



Your work seems focused on still life as much as portrait. Can you tell us more about your approach ? Can you explain your creative process?

Often I pursue a performative approach. My inspiration can come from a certain object that I want to include and then I start thinking about how to do that. There are also certain issues like relationships, family that interest me and with which I want to deal. Sometimes I´m doing a lot of research, sometimes I don´t. It really depends and I don´t want to miss either way. When I started to photograph I hated people in my pictures. But now I love taking portraits and I feel that a person has to offer so many stories and it´s a gift to photograph interesting people. My approach depends, though. I like to take pictures that are more documentary, too. And I feel that the big challenge is to bring everything together in a way that it makes sense and suggests a story. I like when a picture is oscillating and you can´t be too sure about it´s origin…if there´s something that engages you somehow.



HYBRID, 2008


(No) Hybrid, 2008


As a photographer which are your favorite subject?

As you noticed I like to take portraits. I guess it´s really people that I have a strong interest in. But I don´t know if I have a favourite subject. I like pictures, however, that confuse you a bit or lead to asking questions. I want the viewer to deal with what´s on my picture and to think about his relationship to it maybe as well as the relationship I might have to the subject I photographed.


Are you inspired by contemporary photographers?

I sure am also inspired by contemporary photographers and artists ! (But also by older ones) There are a lot of great guys out there (and a lot of crap, too, to be honest…but that´s a matter of taste) and with the internet you almost can´t avoid stumbling over it (and I´m just too curious to not have a look what´s going on). But I guess I´m just inspired by life…that may sound like a cliché-response but it´s just like that. That´s what concerns me, there´s so much going on and somehow everyting is adding up to a big pile of things you´ve seen or experienced. Sometimes I also hate that cause it´s difficult to filter and just confusing. But overall I love observing and thinking about how things relate. Sometimes that leads to an inspiration for something new, sometimes it leads to nothing, haha.


I read that Nicolas Ghesquière bought one of your pictures. How do you feel when did you knew that ? You can tell us which pictures is it ? Do you feel concerned by fashion ?

It was quite funny. I had a show in London at Claire de Rouen Bookstore (R.I.P Claire – sadly she recently passed away) which is a place where a lot of photography and fashion interested people go. I was already back home when a friend who was working there called me and was very excited because someone bought a picture and that someone was Nicolas Ghesquière. To be honest at that time I didn´t even know who he was…But when she told me I couldn´t believe it (I still can´t believe it and wonder if it can be true)…It was just so strange that our lifes are connected in some way now though he doesn´t even know me and we have never met. And I really wonder what he did with the photograph : was it a gift to someone (if yes, to whom ?), has he hung it on his walls (and if yes, how do people react that visit him ?), has he stored it somewhere, has it inspired him for anything ? How does he feel about it, what attracted him ? I would love to know the answers to these questions. Funny enough the photograph was a portrait of a boy I did at a scouts camp in Bavaria…but the boy was a visiting guest from France (Below).



Being-07


Being-07, 2006-2007


So a french guy bought a picture of a french guy without even knowing that the boy was french. I love such coincidences. And yes, I´m interested in fashion. I mean I don´t spend a lot of money on it or need to be dressed very fancy or how it is hip at the moment. I just like to see what´s going on, how people dress, to observe.

And sometimes I like to dress up but mostly I like it cosy. But I also shot a fashion editorial for Tokion Magazine and was showing some work at Berlin fashion week in 2007. People often see a quality related to fashion in my pictures somehow. I don´t know though … maybe it´s true and maybe it´s rather attitude.



Being-12


(No)Being-12, 2006-2007




Being-09


(No)Being-12, 2006-2007



Tell us more about your latest works ?

My latest photo-work was my diploma-work called « Can´t Escape ». That was a pretty tough thing. Not only working out the concept but also the realisation. The work is dealing with landscape which has a very long tradition in art. There´s also been said a lot about it philosophically etc…But somehow I had the feeling that I had to work with that topic. Since my trip to the USA in autumn of 2010 where I experienced a lot of beautiful landscapes and a lot of people experiencing that landscape/views only through their camera that observation was haunting me. I mean it´s strange that we are so eager to take a great picture with us rather than the experience. The picture can´t reproduce what we see, feel, smell and experience as a whole, anyway. It´s just an excerpt of that real beauty which you can´t step into anymore. And then you see all those pictures of landscapes on flickr etc. and you couldn´t decide who took the picture because they all look the same (almost). And what is it good for to have a million snippets of a kind of nice but somehow a bit disappointing photo when missing the experience ? We have lost the ability to contemplate. Wouldn´t itbe better to just take one picture with you and dedicate some time to experience ? So this was the starting point. Then I got a lot of pictures of the typical cliché-landscapes in the typical photo-size you get for your holiday-photos. I made a kind of suit out of them (thanks to my poor Mom who was my victim who had to stand hours for that as a model) and placed a person wearing that suit in a similar landscape to the topic of the pics (like mountains). I wanted the human being to kind of blend into the landscape while knowing that it would stay a foreign body. That was also relating to the philosophical thought that man is alienated to nature and not really one with it anymore.



Can't Escape, 2011


Can't Escape, 2011

But still we have this desire to merge with it. Furthermore it was hinting to the fact that I was criticizing : the inundation with pics. Also the thing that when looking at a landscape we are so loaded with pictures of landscapes that we´ve already seen in commercials, online etc. that there´s a layer of landscapes in our mind. The suit was also meant to be something like a shell on which the eyes of the viewer (of the picture) bounce off and prove again that you can´t step into that landscape and get to know everything as it´s just a picture. I´m offering a beautiful cliché-postcard-motif and then it´s contrasted by the figure that reveils itself not necessarily at first glance. We have to be patient in and with nature to experience it. And also with pictures.
My latest video « Polish » deals – to put it in a nutshell after the long explanation before – with people´s urge for perfection that is sometimes kind of poisonous and rather ruining what we could enjoy in its natural state.CHRISCHA VENUS OSWALD/ POLISH-VIDEO



PARR's DNA, 2006


PARR's DNA, 2006



Your series called PARR’s DNA is very funny. Can you explain how did you have this Martin Parr’s picture ? and why did you do this?

Haha, that was indeed very funny ! It was at the beginning of my studies and we should choose a topic for photographs. Somehow I was interested in people eating because eating is an essential thing in life and people often look very strange or funny when eating. Usually not a nice photo-motif. Then my teacher asked me if I would know about Martin Parr who did something like that, too. I was a bit annoyed because I thought I would know more about contemporary photographers than him anyway and he never was too interested in my work. And then I stumbled over that information in a photo-mag that Martin Parr would give a talk in Munich in two days. I got very excited and thought it would be so great to close the circuit and to score off my teacher when I could get a photo of Martin Parr himself eating. So I tried to find out his email and told him about my plan asking if that would be possible. I didn´t even know if it was the right address and didn´t think he would answer anyway. But he did !



PARR's DNA, 2006


PARR's DNA, 2006



He was very kind and said he wouldn´t have much time as he had a tight schedule but I could bring a banana and could photograph him eating a bite. As this was so absurd I wasn´t sure if he was making fun of me and fooling me but I thought I´d just buy that banana and go to Munich cause I hadn´t anything to lose. At the talk it was also very strange…all those people waiting for him and me being quite nervous and not sure if I would recognize him and how to approach him. But then I thought this must be him and went up to him, asking him if he would be Mr. Parr and telling him « I´m the girl with the banana », haha. Oh my. He told my we should take the photos after the talk. And we did that. It was a bit busy there was press waiting etc. but he was very nice. As he told me he didn´t like to smile on pictures I asked him for one pic to hold the banana like a smile. It went all very quick and I wasn´t too good with the cam at that time so the pics are what they are. But I still love them because of their story. When Mr Parr had some bites of the banana he gave it back to me and I wondered what I should do with it…throw it away ? There was Martin Parr´s DNA on it !



PARR's DNA, 2006


PARR's DNA, 2006



Then I found it strange that I was thinking that because I throw things in the trash can with my or other people´s DNA every day. So a new concept was born for that story. The eating thing I was planning for my teacher never turned out interesting enough anyway. Thanks, Martin Parr !




Go West, 2010-2011


Go West, 2010-2011


Humour appears like something essential in your approach. Why ?

Humour is essential – generally ! I wasn´t considered a very funny person for a long time but when I started to reveal the funny person that had been inside me all the time but wasn´t allowed to get out I felt so much better and happier. I mean all people like to laugh. Humour can be a very smart thing to deal with serious things and it´s something that most people understand. It opens a door. It connects. I like to trigger reactions and humour is a good way I think. But I´m also of the opinion that (successful) humour always has a serious core, a certain truth…and humour is the stage on which that core can be dealt with.

Familly, seems something very important for you, we can feel tenderness in your work like Some about granny or Familly bond series. How did you convince them to be caught by your camera ?

Oh yes, I love my family. I mean it´s not that we don´t have issues, of course we do. But I know they would always be there for me. My family is my home where I can always go back to in case everything will go wrong. That´s a privileged situation to have such a base. As unfortunately they aren´t too interested in art I wanted to transform them into art somehow, include them in that other important part of my life which is art.



Family-Bonds, Mother, 2007


Family-Bonds, Mother, 2007


Family-Bonds, Father, 2007


Family-Bonds, Father, 2007



When I had the idea for Family-Bonds especially my brother and dad weren´t too enthusiastic about it…My dad was concerned that other people, business partners etc. would see him like that and wouldn´t take him seriously anymore. Also he was in a hurry and yeah, circumstances weren´t the best. But somehow I could convince him that this was so important for me to do it that he gave in. And I was very happy about that support. And involving my family in that project actually changed their perception of making art somehow. They were much more understanding and supportive from that time on. And also curious. My dad became really proud of the pictures after I won the Diesel New Art Award for Photography in Austria 2007 with that series.

He was constantly asking where his picture would be shown next, haha. And especially my mum started supporting and helping me with further projects a lot – be it with organising some things, assisting me or being my « victim » (like in « Can´t Escape « ).



Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)


untitled, 2006


With Your Granny ?

With my granny it was similar : She never wanted me to take her photo though I was always very interested in portraying her. One day I asked her very spontanously if I could take a picture of her wearing a lampion and that this would be so important for me and so beautiful that I just had to do it. She was sceptical but I told her nobody would recognize her with that « hat » anyway…So she agreed. She was about 85 when I was allowed to take my first picture of her. From that time one I tried to approach her with my cam telling her about my idea to make her my model.



Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)
Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)




She thought I was crazy and told me I should have photographed her 60 years ago when she was beautiful…But I managed to kind of get her used to the camera. It was very difficult though and I had to be very careful as I also wanted to respect her and her will. Gradually she started to like the attention and so there developed something like a deal : I was spending time with her and could take photos sometimes. That also really changed and intensified our relationship as I hadn´t spent that much time with her before. And one day she even told me that there would have been a situation for a funny picture but unfortunately I hadn´t been there to capture it…but she could stage it again for me to photograph ! That was crazy. She was even beginning to collaborate with me. This changed the whole project for me in a very positive way as documentary and acting were fusing. But somehow both was real.



Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)


Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)



You like doing films. Is there a difference between the way you approach photography and film-making?

I think film or video is just an extention of my photographic work or ideas. The photo is like a
videostill anyway. And my rather performative approach led to my performance-videos. Maybe because it is a medium I´m not that used to yet it´s more difficult technically. And of course you have to be more patient because rendering is…ugh…In general one has to be a bit more careful and thoughtful maybe as when you record you record and that might take a while. When you shoot a photo you can see it some seconds after taking it and take a new one maybe if you don´t like it. You can do that with film, too, of course…but it takes much longer and needs more effort or sometimes support. And I have to get used to this difference concerning time. But of course the moving image is somehow an interesting new chance to show things in another way.



Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)


Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)



How and where do you find your inspiration ?


That´s another tricky question because it´s everywhere. It can be in a 1 Euro-Shop as well as on a walk, watching the water, fooling around with friends, observing someone, reading an article etc. I couldn´t tell. Probably all the things you perceive and think about just gather and than sometimes there´s a « bang » and you got an idea. I mean there are always things you´re interested in or concerned with but you couldn´t say where exactly it comes from. The crucial thing is the « bang » however, because you can be inspired a lot but as long as that decisive thing is missing it doesn´t lead to a proper idea and stays just something vague.


How do you usually like to shoot (digital…)?

I don´t care too much about that. If it´s important for me to control things a lot I use digital because of its advantages for being cheap and quick. Sometimes I also like to shoot film but probably I use that more for documentary or diary-like photos. Altogether it´s a mixture but at the moment I´d say I´m shooting more digital.

Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)


Some about Granny (since 2006, on going)

What's your dream project?

I don´t have one dream project. My dream project would be that I can make a living of my creative work and that I don´t have to earn money with another job that is distracting me from my passion. I would love to have the time and chance to just work out ideas and then work on these ideas. I would love to get recognition and chances to show my work. I would love to lead a happy and fulfilling life with great experiences and people I love. So my dream project is a successful life that I can be content with and proud of I guess.

Untitled, 2006


untitled, 2006

What's next for you?

My video « Hautnah---t » (Angel Wings) was just shown in a show in Bologna with selected work of the Manuel de Santaren Collection.CHRISCHA VENUS OSWALD/Hautnah That was a great experience and now I have to work on new things. I especially want to proceed with video but that´s always a long process. There are also some ideas but I don´t want to speak too much about them until it´s done. It´s rather performative again, however. And I have to apply for grants and stuff to get closer to my goal mentioned above. Furthermore I really want to do a little photo-publication and also a poetry-publication – so that´s also on my agenda. Next to that it´s « just « everyday life. Oh and in April there will be a programme on the great Manuel de Santaren and his video-collection in « Kurzschluss » on arte-TV. Some snippets of my video will also be shown there. I´m looking forward to that.


Being


Being,2006-2007

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