journal

Düsseldorf Polaroids

My current project is a set of Polariod manipulations that I made in Düsseldorf. These alternative art images have a vintage, painterly effect and the photography ranges from touristy-mysterious to inspirational and somewhat whimsical. In these images, I was viewing Düsseldorf as a tourist would: standing beside and looking up at churches and statues gives the images a slightly hurried feel with their steep perspectives. In addition to a sense of awe, there is a feeling of being slightly lost or confused from not quite knowing what these unfamiliar sights from times past, or perhaps still present, represent.

I created these pictures during some of Düsseldorf’s extremely hot summer days while I was wandering and cycling around the city. It was a sort of photographic en plein air experience as I manipulated each image immediately after it began to develop, using the hot sun to keep the image soft. This gave me quite a short working time, but intensified the experience and kept my impressions (pun intended) immediate. There were times when I thought I would collapse, working feverishly under the hot sun on a traffic island with the afternoon traffic rushing past – it really was a fantastic experience!

There will be several small series: streetcars, churches, street scenes, urban artifacts, and statues. Each of these series will be comprised of 3 – 5 images when complete, all available as limited edition giclee prints.

Picture Perfect

Much of contemporary photography is blessed with controlled, perfected sameness. Is it just the popularity of digital photography and its streamlined processes as Alec Soth muses in Tactile Photography or is there something deeper to learn?

I think the quandary arises from the seductive “promise of perfection” offered by the photographic tools of the day versus the inevitable distance between capture and recollection. It’s too easy to get caught up in pursuing some shared ideal of perfection at the expense of personal expression. Rather than reaching into our souls to be in touch with what we seek to express, we fetish the technology to seek promised answers to our unexamined needs.

Feeling this unsatisfying gap between an increasingly hands-off process, the results of that process, and what one was trying to convey, is the (re)awakening of the artist within the technologist. Whatever the technology, the artist within seeks ways to intervene, to be as hands-on as necessary to capture one’s feeling as well as the image.

Simply jumping wholesale on some alternative process bandwagon takes us back to where we started; imperfection for its own sake, disconnected from the subject, isn’t necessarily any more expressive. For most it’s just another fun club to join, but it can also be a means of challenging our assumptions and may contribute to the path of self-expression. The quest is to recognize and take the tools at our disposal, and to bend them to our artistic will in such a way that the viewer is able to empathize with the artist’s journey. So again and again we have to start within and free ourselves from our self-imposed, often invisible, constraints to reconnect with the artist.

About Der Mahner / The Admonisher

Der Mahner / The Admonisher #1 - Polaroid Manipulation by H. Henning Riebe

When I happened upon this statue tucked away on a hilltop in Düsseldorf's Hofgarten park, I was completely captivated by its simple, dark, strong outlines. It's singular purpose is to call out, to extol us to heed the powerful reminder in the inscription at its base:

Mensch dieser Erde
Wer du auch bist
Woher du auch kommst
Wohin du auch gehst
Bedenke
Gott der Allmächtige
Hat dir dies Leben geliehen
Unterscheiden zu lernen
Das Gute vom Bösen
Nutze dein Leben
Das Gute zu tun

People of this earth
Whoever you may be
Wherever you may come from
Wherever you may go
Consider
God the all mighty
Has loaned you this life
To learn to distinguish
Good from evil
Use your life
To do good

— Udo van Meeteren, 1985

The author of the inscription is also the benefactor who donated the statue to the city.

About the Johanneskirche

Johanneskirche - Polaroid Manipulation by H. Henning Riebe

The Johanneskirche in Düsseldorf was built to commemorate the 1825 union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches and their formal recognition as the Evangelisch (Protestant) church by König Friedrich Wilhelm III. Replacing the secret meeting places of the previously unofficial churches, the location at Martin-LutherPlatz in the heart of Düsseldorf was chosen despite great protest from the Catholic community. Completed in 1881 after over 50 years of fund-raising and planning it was the largest Evangelisch church in Germany with its 85.7 metre high towers. Along with much of Düsseldorf, the church was badly damaged in a 1943 bombing during WW II. With few restoration funds available, it was almost sacrificed to make way for a new overpass, which now curves around it. The architect in charge of the restoration unfortunately took this opportunity to cleanse the original design of its smaller towers and many Italian renaissance inspired decorations to create a cleaner silhouette. The restored Johanneskirche opened in 1953.

“Tree Beard” in Print

Tree Beard - Photography by H. Henning Riebe

“Tree Beard” is featured on the cover of the February Lighthouse Park Preservation Society newsletter.

Celebrating Nature - Lighthouse Park

Tenacity - Photography by H. Henning Riebe

The Lighthouse Park Preservation Society is hosting a show of painting, photography, etching, collage and quilting inspired by the rich environment of this 185 acre old growth forest. Opening reception 6:30 - 8:00 PM, January 5 at the West Vancouver Memorial Library.