At times, it can be hard to say that a photographer is trying something new. Don’t get me wrong, unique and new can, and in this case are, two separate things. With Philipp Bolthausen’s work, I dare say that mixing typography with double exposures and black and white photography is something new. Bolthausen’s work is dreamlike; in his series, “Monsters of the Mechanical 20th Century World,” he double exposes typography with railroads to create an amazing array of lines, featuring railyards and reflections of electrical lines and rail cars. The high contrast images are sometimes hard to read, producing rather coherent images of shapes and lines, displaying the confusion of these 20th century beasts and their homes. Bolthausen’s work hovers between abstraction and representation, forcing the viewer to confront their desire for visual coherence, while offering an alternative structure for the photos of today. We had the opportunity to ask him some questions about his passion and get to know him better through his work.
Fameless Quarterly: How does one become a Photographer?
Philipp Bolthausen: I do not consider myself a photographer in the ‘artist’ sense. It is not about becoming a photographer, but more so a melding of the medium to your person. Everyone needs a mode of expression, some people paint and others write; my choice has been to pick up the camera; and this does not automatically define me as a photographer. I guess though, in answer to your question, that to become a photographer (for lack of a better word) one has to be able to experiment and find comfort in taking pictures, it is about enjoying the process that one creates for himself while pushing the balance between technique and creativity to the breaking point.
FQ: What Inspires you?
PB: In overlapping images a distortion of reality is created, the image no longer is a direct representation of what the naked eye can see but transforms into a portrait of the subconscious. The multitude of images become representative of the intrinsic layering of human emotion where there are no clear-cut lines but a fusion of phantasmagorias. It is finding the sequentiality within the structure that creates the image. It is not a depressed feeling but a repressed state that drives my inspiration – the notion of chaos emerges and I give in to it. I find inspiration everywhere; from the papers and books I read, to the people I have met for a brief second. My encounters and experiences has been my influence and will continue to be so until the moment I become immune to my surroundings.
FQ: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
PB: The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, ergo there is no way to define a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ picture. The subjectiveness of an image lies not only in the viewer, as each person will have his own interpretation of the photograph, but in the person behind the camera too. From my viewpoint a ‘good’ photograph is when it leaves you wanting more; the image has to be able to tell a story pushing the viewer to explore it.
FQ: What does photography mean to you?
PB: In four words: ‘Become who you are’ (Nietzsche). Photography is my tool of getting the lines and patterns out of my head; the most primal mode of dealing with ‘the day’ is to find a way for the mind to escape it – photography is my creative poison of choice ut aiunt.
FQ: One of today’s main discussion points amongst photographers is about the use of digital photography; do you use digital cameras? What is the influence of digital technology on your photography?
PB: The use of photography has an extremely vast reach, for each purpose a different hold on the medium must be had. Digital cameras and their complementary post processing software has undoubtedly aided in the business development and changed the way the world views/uses/plays with it. It has been a cognizant choice to work in the large part with analog instead of digital cameras, notwithstanding my deep admiration for the digital realm. The choice between the two is one for the individual to make in basis of their specific needs. It is impossible to state whether one is better than another as it a subjective preference which will push one person to use analog and another to use digital. The single effects of modern post-processing are not important in my work, I will not go beyond the traditional workflow of the darkroom as my goal is to achieve more than a photographic representation from film; it is to tell a story through the rewriting and reinterpreting of shape and life by opposing contemporary limitation of all representation and letting the image form itself solely through light and shadow.
FQ: Color vs. Black and White. Why one over the other, and is the photographic process different?
PB: Again, the choice of black and white over color is a personal one. Using the 20th century medium of black and white film allows me to see and therefore place the present into perspective, challenging the viewer with the unfamiliar and disremembered feel of grain. Lines are very important in my work; the harshness of the shadows in black and white allows me to experiment with multiple exposures to create a new image, a technique that, for me, does not need color.
FQ: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
PB: I don’t. Weather is an irrelevant factor as I am not attempting to achieve a technically perfect photograph, my images aren’t pictures of something but objects about something. When photographing I am much more concerned with what I am seeing through the lens, and how it will work with the photograph I have previously taken rather than with the meteorological conditions which are and will always be out of my control.
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Dedication is an enormous part of our lives as artists. This issue we’ve inaugurated a new column titled METHOD with Laura Sly, a NJ based illustrator; In it we’ll talk about day-to-day lives as artists. Within DEDICATION we have editorials like ‘Incomparable Commitment’ where we talk about Max Fischer’s dedication and ‘Making it’ where we talk about where pursuing a label doesn’t necessarily mean success for a musician. We also feature work from Jae Kim, Shannon Stoia, Philip Bolthausen, Megan Duenas, Katie Sadis and a plethora of others.