ARTIST WEEKLY MAGAZINE: Allow me to start by asking a banal question: is photography art?
EMILIO KWITZ-GRUNNER: Well, it depends how you approach it. Certainly not every photograph taken today is a work of art. There are thousands of digital cameras around us, used by people who don’t have a thing to say. Simply pressing the shutter-release button is not a form of creation. Only a proper interpretation, and in some cases over-interpretation, can define and show the worth of a work. The consciousness of the act is very important. Asking important questions and the need to search for answers is the result of a solid education in this field.
AWM: So you would state that someone without any preparation is unprepared to take interesting pictures?
EKG: No, not at all. It is highly probable that in the hundreds of thousands of photos shot every day, something very interesting will be found among them; however, without properly thought-through actions, those photos will remain normal pictures that contribute nothing.
AWM: You cannot deny, however, that the coincidence effect has a rather important place in reporting.
EKG: It’s good that you brought that up. I think that reporting is actually the sum of coincidences. It’s a matter of being in the right place and having fast equipment. The rest can be taken care of by monkeys.
AWM: Monkeys?
EKG: You know, like in that saying, that if you put a thousand monkeys in front of typewriters, in a year they’d write Hamlet. AWM: Right. Now I understand that you give great importance to the contents of your work...
EKG: Of course. Despite the fact that I’m a part of the photography world, the only part of it that interests me is the image. I oppose processing - especially digital – and nondescript visuality. The words of Johannes Brick, that the “artist is the message,” are very important for me. I don’t want to move too far away, rejecting the content as well, but really identify with the fact that the artist is the most important in art.
AWM: You think that the true mission of the artist is to educate - even imposing the manner of comprehending the work, so I’m not surprised that there is such an evident influence of Bauhaus in your latest works.
EKG: It’s very hard for me to comment on that. I confess that I have always been a fan of classical melodies and I didn’t go for rock music.
AWM: Ok. Six years have passed since your last exhibition in the Debris Hut Gallery. It was rather controversial. Could you remind our readers of a few more details?
EKG: I showed Baryte paper prints with portraits of famous people I am friends with, colored with urine. By doing so, I wanted to depreciate the attention with which my colleagues approach the technical aspect of their work.
AWM: I remember that that exhibition was not received very warmly by the community. Day after day, the glossies printed interviews with stars who did not have very friendly things to say about you.
EKG: What can I say. No one ever said that being an artist was a piece of cake.
AWM: That’s true. Let’s look a little bit into the past now. Many people will surely be interested in your beginnings and when you first became interested in photography.
EKG: I confess that I started in a rather simple field, that being nature photography. Landscapes, photos of animals and especially birds, which I always considered to be God’s greatest creation – I thought it was what I would be doing for the rest of my life.
AWM: So why did you give it up then?
EKG: Because of obvious limitations. After six months of hauling big, professional cameras and long, heavy telephoto lenses, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to reach the audience and make the appropriate impressions on the viewer. Everyone sees nature every day, so the possibilities for interpretation are quite scanty.
AWM: At the end of our conversation, will you reveal to us what you’re currently working on?
EKG: This time I would like to concentrate on minimalism. My new project is called “Seeing things unseeable.” I use the technique of total overexposure of the material. It’s based on my putting the camera on a tripod and exposing the photo for a very long time. Even a few hours.
AWM: Are you using any special materials?
EKG: No, no. It’s normal, classic film.
AWM: But that method means that not much will be able to be seen in the photographs.
EKG: Of course. Think, though, that reality will be in some way registered in the photo. People, their environments, their gestures and behavior will be captured in a small celluloid frame. I would like to concentrate this time on a reporter’s approach and not use professional models for these photos, and look deeply into the true world and real problems. Despite the fact that nothing will be recognizable or definable on the finished photos, besides black frames, you will be able to see unseeable things.
AWM: It sounds truly fascinating. Forgive me for constantly getting into technical matters, but shouldn’t those photos be white?
EKG: Not exactly. I didn’t mention that before opening the shutter, I’m going to cover the lens with a piece of thick black satin.
AWM: But won’t that collide with what you said before? If you do that, you won’t capture anything on film at all.
EKG: Right. And that is what is most enticing in this project. AWM: I’m afraid I don’t understand.
EKG: I guarantee that when you see my work for yourself in the gallery, everything will become clear for you.
AWM: I will be there for sure. On behalf of our readers and myself, thank you for having this conversation.
EKG: Thank you.