My visual arts practice is mainly photographic but also includes video and urban interventions. I combine a wide range of influences from my background as an artist, urban planner, and sociologist to having lived in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I investigate the relationship we have with our environment in urban places and in cultural and natural landscapes. My photographs engage with the socio-political implications of spatial processes by exploring notions of geography, history, race, class, and gender. Even though most of my photographs do not show people directly, they talk about the traces that people have left behind using or passing through these spaces. I am particularly drawn to unusual, derelict, mundane, and often overlooked spaces as these offer a vast area of hidden (local) histories. By exploring these, I offer the viewer insights about spaces they may never visit or simply do not notice.
I draw my inspiration from the immediate places where I live. As I have lived in many different places and settings, from rural to suburban to urban in Germany, England, and the U.S., my projects are international but still very site-specific. My practice is research-based and usually has a strong theoretical foundation, which enables me to place my work not only in an art context but also beyond.
Through my background as urban planner and sociologist I explore places and structures by analyzing them for particular attributes, e.g. who lives and frequents particular places or buildings, who may be excluded, what interactions are visible or invisible but definable through traces, what kind of buildings, streets and other infrastructure, green spaces, or other features can be seen. Using my ‘photographer’s eyes’ I compose images, often with a strong leaning towards architectural photography, which is visible in the formal lines and analytical way that I use to frame my images.
I usually shoot film using medium or large format cameras. I am drawn to the slow way of working with film as opposed to digital. In the past, my urban projects were photographed in color as in my opinion the multi-faceted city life can be best brought out through color images. Since moving to North Carolina I have shifted to black and white as I feel that the heaviness of the historical yet contemporary topics is better conveyed in a range of grey tones than in color.
My art connects with numerous broader trends. Twentieth-century German photography has been very influential for me, particularly Bernd and Hilla Becher and their former students at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art with their analytical approach to space. I have always been fascinated by William Eggleston’s use of color and by the New Topographics’ methods of surveying man-made urban and suburban landscapes. In addition, I assisted the well-known architectural photographer Hélène Binet in London, and she inspired me to view spaces in new ways by focusing on the interplay of architectural concepts, light and shadows. Since having moved to North Carolina a new wave of artists has inspired my work, mainly due to a change in topics as I have started focusing on history, archives, and race. In particular Christian Boltanski, Anselm Kiefer, and Kara Walker are of interest to me in how they deal with history, the legacy of the Holocaust and slavery, and the way they work with and create archives.