An Interview With: Oliver Wiegner
Who are you and where did you study?
I am a contemporary landscape photographer currently living in Bielefeld, Germany who was born in 1993. After school, I worked a bit as a graphic designer, but found out that my true passion lies with photography. So ever since then, I am studying Photography & Media at the FH Bielefeld Faculty of Art and Design. My projects mostly focus on the interaction of humankind with the landscape and how this relationship changes over time.
What is your artist statement for the body of work “Entropy Definition No. 2“?
The project focuses on how suffering arises in a person and traces its roots into memories of childhood and youth. The photographs are intentionally vague and open to allow the viewer to search for their own interpretation or relate to certain emotions. They provoke questions without certain answers to emphasise how memories fade and warp over time. This fallible construct is the base for our feelings and perception of the world around us which thus is in constant change — potentially leading to feelings of tension and ambiguity. We never truly are, but merely exist in an approximation in between our past experiences and those still to come.
What genre would you consider you series to come under?
The series is quite hard to categorise in my opinion. It leans a lot on landscape and architecture and has a documentary feel here and there while almost touching stagings. I don't think it fits into any box really.
Your style is very precise, who/what influences this style?
As far as photographers go, I'm a huge fan of the New Color Movement around Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz! Other big names that have an influence on me are Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth and Gregory Crewdson. I draw a lot of inspiration from music as well, in fact the idea to include the definitions of "Entropy" and "Metaxis" in my book was sort of directly taken from Silent Planet's album "Everything Was Sound". What all these artists have in common is that they put a lot of thought into their projects and I'd like to think I do something similar, at least to a certain extent.
Colour seems to play a large part in this project, do you think this project would of worked in black and white?
I'm not that good with words, so here's a quote from Joel Meyerowitz:
"When we look at photographs that are in color, it’s like looking at the world. Things in color mean something to us. Maybe we can’t even verbalize what they mean."
The point I’m getting at lies within the last sentence of the quote: my project plays with memories and feelings which sometimes are hard to interpret and thus hard to verbalise as well.
What was the process of creating this series?
The process itself developed in two different ways: I had an idea of what I wanted my project to be and how I wanted to convey the story it tells.
The basic idea behind the project was to to take photos at places that somehow had an influence on me. This was kind of one-sided though, so I've added certain memories and stories from my childhood and youth that I tried to capture in single photographs. After that I found the project to be still lacking, so I've decided to tie it all together by adding pictures that show specific emotions.
After looking at the first images I had taken, I quickly realised that there is something more, a darkness I couldn’t really put my finger on. After putting some more thought into it, I decided that it would be far more interesting to not just keep the photographs ambiguous, but rather base the whole project on it.
After I had photographed all of the images I felt I needed to take, I had to think about the way I wanted to present them. Initially, the plan was to just take the classic way of framing them, but to keep them small – 30 × 40 cm or so, but since the series is quite personal, my professor suggested a book would make more sense. I went with a size similar to an autograph book with the intent to evoke a private, very close experience.
What was the technical side in creating this project?
The two cameras used in the making of the project were a Mamiya 7II with the 80mm f4 which I've used for the most part and a Mamiya RZ67 with a 110mm f2.8 to get the shallow depth of field present in some of the photos. The pictures were captured on Kodak Portra 400 exposed at ISO 320. After I've developed the film, it was scanned and digitally printed for the book. Its size is 17 × 14.2 cm with the photos themselves being 12 × 9.8 cm.
What are you plans for the future?
Within the next year, I will finish my Bachelors degree and then start my Masters. After that I honestly don't know. I'm teaching a darkroom workshop at my University where I introduce the freshmen to analog photography – it would be great to get a job doing something like that.
What is the best piece of advice you could give the viewers of The Pupil Sphere?
That is a hard question. I think studying photography was the best decision I’ve ever made, as it really helped me to develop as a person and as an artist as well. During my first two semesters, I was taught by a professor who’s a really tough critic which forced me to realise that my skills as a photographer back then used to be way lower than I thought them to be. Looking back, I’ve got to say that this was very hard to pull through, but I did and it was very much necessary. The professor I’m working with now really “gets me” I think and is very supportive while also pushing me forward. The point here is that it’s very important who you’re working with and much more so that they are the right person for you. Apart from professors, my classmates have been a huge help and influence for me. Talking about art in general, its different forms and the way they see it was and continues to be very inspiring and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in being creative!