The hecticness of everyday life often rushes by too fast for many reasons – and beautiful moments along with it. But aren’t the ordinary, everyday things the real trophies of our information-overdosed life, for which we rarely make time for? Matthias Schade was born in Berlin and is a photographer who mainly deals with the urban surroundings of his hometown. His photographs bring visual place and time to the fore and decelerate our daily lives in subtle ways…
Matthias, where did your interest in photography come from?
It is not a romantic story. It was a rather long and evolving process. Looking back, I remember, however, that I started taking pictures very early. I had a very simple, small plastic camera and I could not wait to pick up the developed film and prints from the photo shop. While I developed as a person during high school, my interests developed as well. After a certain period of trying out various activities, I decided to dive deeper into the world of photography and applied to study photography.
From 2007-2010 you studied photo-design at the Lette Verein. What influenced you the most during this time?
Conversations. During these three years, the most valuable experience for me was the input and constructive interaction with the teachers and students. We spent hours discussing pictures, projects, and personal interests. Of course, I also learned to take photos, but above all, questions such as “What makes an image a really good picture?”, “How can different pictures function?”, or “What form of presentation is suitable for a specific project?”, which explain the functions of photography, interested me the most. During my training, I became more professional and developed the foundations for my own photography; because of the small classes, our creative exchange of ideas and new concepts really influenced all of us.
How did you choose your subjects?
During my studies I became interested in architecture and still life. In my work, “city stills” and “(un) defined space”, I was looking for the right motifs, especially in Berlin. When making a choice on what to shoot, I am very critical. In the two aforementioned works, it was important for me to judge the focus on the mundane and ordinary – things that we see every day in the city without paying any attention to them. Many things rush by unnoticed because we rarely take time in our hectic and fast-paced life.
Because of this, I want to catch a certain kind of peace and calm with my photographs that expresses itself through its formal minimalism, without any overlays. I think this has something to do with the current Zeitgeist, where we are constantly bombarded with information and pictures every day.
In the series “(un) defined space” and “city stills” you work with strong lighting control and with intensive contrast between light and dark. What excites you the most?
I am not interested in documenting the nature of a place, but much more the subject and how it can be seen – be it a bus station or a roof. These are everyday objects and places that I want to free from its congested surroundings. “Separated” from their natural environment, nothing takes anything away from them anymore. The control of lighting, like a spotlight, allows me to attain a certain visuality. I also usually arrange my subject near the center, making the object-character more accented. In this context, it is also important to me that the black insulating darkness surrounds the subject like a framing background.
The series “(un) defined space” can be seen at the art salon in Berlin. It was exciting to see that the images actually work for the viewers, as they consciously observed the photos from different perspectives. This describes my approach exactly; I would like to achieve a directional view and provide new experiences for the viewer.
How do you work when taking photos?
I use an analog large-format camera. Because of the quality, I have the ability to make larger prints. On the other hand, this camera offers a lot of freedom in the design of the photos. Especially for the two aforementioned works, I exclusively took the pictures at night. This has to do with the prevailing light conditions and the quieter and more relaxed working atmosphere. For the illumination of the objects I always need an assistant who can illuminate the object successively, meter by meter, with a portable flash. I do the exposure of the negative, which is a long exposure. However, between the flashes I cover the negative. This technique allows me to illuminate large objects, and at the same time, the flash only illuminates the object, without other light sources.
What was the last exhibition you saw?
Berlin has a lot to offer and I try to see a lot. The most recent exhibitions, which really impressed me a lot, were the exhibitions of photographs by Alec Soth in Loock Gallery, Jörn Vanhöfen at Kuckei + Kuckei and Ute and Werner Mahler at Dittrich and Schlechtriem. For the series “Broken Manual”, Alec Soth portrayed dropouts from american society who hide away from civilization. It shows the parallel world in which they live, their homes, the solitude of the forests, and their desire to escape.
Matthias, Thanks for the interview!
Other projects and materials are available on his homepage: http://www.matthiasschade.de/
The Interview took place at Agora on 3rd November 2011 between Matthias Schade, Maria Sitte and Solveig Maria Ebbinghaus.