Thursday, 14 February 2013

Interview Foam Talent Call: Esther Teichmann

from the series, Mythologies © Esther Teichmann

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Esther Teichmann. I grew up in Weingarten, a village in southern Germany in the Rhine valley near the Black Forest with my American mother and German father. They still live in the same house we (my two sisters and I) were born in. I left Germany after high school to go to art school outside of London and have been mainly based in London since, doing my MA and then later PhD at the Royal College of Art. This academic year I am on sabbatical from the London College of Communication (where I teach MA and BA Photography courses) and am spending the year in San Francisco as a visiting artist at the California College of the Arts. Having the privilege to work closely with students and colleagues in art schools both in the UK and internationally has been incredibly important to my practice.

What inspired you to pick up a camera and start taking photographs?

Photography's (and film) relationship to transformation whilst maintaining its inevitable link to reality makes it a unique and endlessly fascinating medium. I have always loved images and have been drawn to paintings, have collected and cut out photographs from discarded newspapers and other found material, and have been equally influenced by literature, writing fragmented short stories as a form of sketchbook work (which enters the work more directly in the film works as voiceovers). Changing lived experience into fiction has always been part of my practice.

What (technical) gear do you use?

The technology and materials I use really vary depending on the piece of work. I often use large format cameras (5x4 inch or 10x8 inch field cameras) shooting both black and white and colour film, and love working in the darkroom. I am currently working on very large-scale fibre-based mural prints, which are made up of several sections to emulate the scale of painted backdrops I have used in some of my recent works. Some of these mural prints are painted into the prints with ink and acrylics, in the same way that I have previously worked with them on colour prints.

I also work digitally, especially for moving image work (recently on the Nikon D800E editing on my Mac laptop and desktop) and work with editors and sound engineers (and actors for voiceovers).
Each piece is approached separately and I love learning new processes. Iam lucky to be in art school environments that allow me to continually learn from my colleagues and all the amazing technical support and facilities.

Desk in studio © Esther Teichmann

Do you have other interests besides photography?

Besides going to museums, galleries and to the movies with close friends, I am really happiest in or near water; swimming, canoeing through back rivers and swamps and lying in saunas and steam rooms thinking about new works and ideas. I guess everything that makes me happy and the family and friends I love are all part of my work, so there is very little separation in some ways.

Where do you find inspiration for your work? Who is your favorite photographer or artist?

The bodies that I love and desire, the ones that are home and the stories they tell are my main sources of inspiration. My practice explores the origins of fantasy and desire and how these are bound to the experiences of loss and representation. I am interested in the dichotomy between autobiography and fiction, reworking experiences into something else in images, films and writing.

There are so many artists, photographers, filmmakers and writers who I am influenced and inspired by. Some of my favourite writers include Maurice Blanchot, Georges Bataille, and Marguerite Duras.
I saw wonderful Neo Rauch paintings in the Rubell Collection in Miami last week and one of my favourite shows of the past year was a show at Yerba Buena in San Francisco by Nathalie Djerberg, which combines sculptures and animations in an incredible installation. I have loved her work since I first saw it at the ZKM in my hometown in Karlsruhe years ago. This summer I went to the Museum of Fine Art in Leipzig for the first time and think it has some of the most considered and beautiful curated exhibitions (and amazing architecture) of any museum I have ever been to. There was a great Lee Miller/ Man Ray show in San Francisco a few months ago that was installed to echo and outline their relationship. I also went to the Neue Galerie in New York for the first time a few a few months ago and want to live there. Too many artists, shows, museums, films to list.

from the series, Mythologies © Esther Teichmann

Have you been working on any new projects this year that you would like to share with us?

I am currently working on a new short film piece which is similar in structure to the piece I made last, In Search of Lightning, although with a very different narrative and shot in jungle rivers rather than in caves.

I am also working on the large-scale wall mural prints I mentioned earlier, and am painting more backdrops for new studio pieces. I spent the last month photographing and filming in Florida with family and am currently shooting new work in Tuscany where my little sister lives on a beautiful mountain that is covered in rolling fog and clouds and glistening olive trees.

I'll be back in San Francisco in a week and am looking forward to working through the new material towards an exhibition and book.

What did the Foam Talent Call do for your career as a photographer?

Foam's museum, magazine and blog have a really exciting approach to photography, combining exhibitions and features of very established artists with emerging artists, creating a really dynamic dialogue. I have been invited to write/ curate a monthly feature on the Foam blog, which has been really fun.

Do you have any tips for the young photographers out there who want to submit their work to the Foam Talent Call?

I guess the main thing that I try and remember and have learnt is to keep enjoying and being excited about the work you make. If it scares you, surprises you and makes you happy it might just be good. And to work hard but to also be patient and not measure yourself and the work based on a certain kind of success or recognition. Surround yourself with friends and colleagues who inspire you, and be generous in sharing your ideas with one another.

Elisa Medde


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