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Photographer of the week: Christoph Hessel

Christoph Hessel is a 1x veteran whose contributions to the community cannot be overestimated. This week, we would like to highlight some of his marvelous work as a photographer. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview. You will find more photos in the end of the article.

Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I am married to the wonderful artist and photographer Marei. We share the passion for travelling, photography and sports. We both are fervent hikers, cyclists and runners. Long distant running (more than 50 km) is a passion of mine.

Our youngest child Anni is now nearly 3 years old and a pure joy. Max and Tristan, are 15 and 17 years old. Max also shares the same joy in photography and has already an image published on 1X.

I am a self employed lawyer, often working much too much but happily since I enjoy my job. It helped me to stop image piracy and copyright violations in a significant way.

How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
The question can best be aswered with the image “about isolation“

It's an image I chose as starting point of a series. I captured it in 1974 as a 10 years old with the first SLR I owned, a Minolta SRT 100 x. My father was a photographer. He accompanied and mentored my way of seeing. He died 10 years ago, a deep loss. I always capture "with him“.

What interests me is the mood, the power of melanchonly, insight, timelessness and calmness. I try to capture moments which express that.

What first attracted you to photography?
My father, no doubt.

Describe your overall photographic vision
I do not assume that photos are self-explanatory. If they arouse feelings and imagination they fulfill their purpose.

Photography is a medium, which does not so much depict the reality as it describes and creates an impression of it. It thereby fulfills a function we call metaphorical or figurative language which has much more in common with spoken language than we often realize.

We may deduct ways and possibilities from this fact which lead me to my conception of photographic action. Quite frequently human experience is understood as a co-effect between subjective interaction which has an impact on the space "between" us and ourselves. We believe that we are the ones who leave our mark on the world. But, if there is "something between us" the space between us gains independent importance. This very space is of great interest to me. Not only that we mark it, it leaves its mark on us.  It has already been filled and is percieved and felt. It has an effect and appears as a given context, within us or, above all, a context with which we interact.

Photography can be a medium between describing an environment and leaving our mark on it.  It is not only passively engraved but, on its own part, actively leaves its own mark and impact.

This kind of comprehension of photography disperses any contradictions in classical "namely depicting" photography, which may fail on behalf of the fact that the photographer or the beholder are rarely present at the same time to clearify or explain the matters. It liberates from the fiction of self-explanatory representative reality leading to a meaning as a part of a language, that neither explains nor is explanatory. Only thus can it accomplish its function as a reference to the described, without representing it itself. The intended silence in contemplating the reference to impressions, traces and trails of historical past, of the accommodating, the composedly passing real depict a still life of the archaic. It can and may render us to a taste and make us become aware of our being alive, thus offering us a counter-weight to a fast-moving and multicoloured world of quick using and forgetting. A recollection of origin, home and meaning of both subjective and objective finiteness of the life perceived.

I never leave home without a photo-camera. Even nowadays I still shoot analogue with Leica IIf (1951) and a Minolta SRT 100X (1975). Of course, I also use some digital cameras. Dslr's of different brands (Sony, Nikon) and my beloved Ricoh GR digital. I have chosen fixed focal length because they force me to analyse my motif and help me to concentrate on the object.

Why are you so drawn by photography?
The power and options to express without words. My job is all about words. My passion is to leave them aside.

What is more important to you, the story behind an image or the technical perfection?
I often find myself writing in forums something like the following: "I am not interested in technique at all. I don't care about sharpness, depth of field or anything like that.“ What I mean by that is often, much too often, the techniques and stylistic devices used, are so prominent that they distract. I am deeply convinced that an image with a strong story, concept, and mood doesn't need technical brilliance, as long as this imperfection itself does not begin to distract.

What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
That depends and differs a lot on what I am capturing. In most cases I interact with my motif when it is human. I talk while capturing, try to create a mood or situation to emphasize what I want to show. 

What is your most important advice to a beginner in photography and how do you get started?Simplify and concentrate. Become aware and clear about what you want to show, about what aspects interest you and what you try to convey. Think whether your not - present viewer can understand that, and how you can help him to see and feel what you want him to see and feel.

Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography? 
Robert Frank, no doubt. His portraits of Americans impressed me. As a young boy, I I bought one of his books. I still frequently look at it..

Is there is any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a big deal  and why?
Yes: Jure Kravanja`s image "Eternity of the moment“

"Eternity of the moment“ by Jure Kravanja.

It is intense and moody, a timeless work I adore just as I adore him as a great artist.

Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
Yes, while we all spend money to use equipment that is able to capture a fly's leg in darkness at a distance of 100 meter, and furthermore spend money to unsharpen it again just to arouse mood ( just kidding), I will focus on my moody projects of a blurred world. I not only use lensbaby, but also use UV filters with vaseline applied or a fish-net stocking pulled over the lense, or a full stopper to create moody partly blurred images to show the isolation we live in, often without realising it and the strange aspects of the seemingly well known.

Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
A difficult question to me.

As far as my more melancholic aspects are concerned, I would refer to the image "about isolation“ near the beginning of the interview.

As far as positive and happy feelings are concerned, there is no doubt that this one is a favourite:


It expresses love, shelter and a certain mood to me.

Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I owe 1x a lot. It was here that I learned about the need to improve and got the inspiration to do so. I learned not only to express myself in a way I understand but also in a way to convey and be understood by the viewers. Interacting with the community of the 1X critique section, I made friends with some of the greatest artists I could ever imagine. I would like to thank Robert, Phyllis and Harry, Kevin and Barbara, who traveled on this journey with me. I'm deeply grateful for their support.










Wow! This is great and you deserve it so much! One of my favorite is "public privacy" (5 years ago) opened my eyes to your pictures. After that you showed many sides photo-wise. I like that.
Big congrats Christoph, you not only a fine person, which I respect a lot, but also a very fine photographer. Also thanks to Yvette, for the wonderful interview pleasant to read. Best, Ben
A wonderful interview, it's really nice to read of authors who do not know personally, is a way of bringing the soul and spirit of the photographer. Many congratulations to Christoph and Yvette to give us a part of so many authors
Very nice interview. Einfach starke Bilder!
Terrific interview, Yvette! Enjoyed reading it, Christoph! Thanks for sharing! :)
thanks a lot Darlene
Hi Chris, I am pleased to see your work and your ideas highlighted here at lx. I enjoy all your photography and especially treasure the photos with Anni in them. I find her expressions to be deeply filed with joy and a wonder for life. As you get older you sometimes forget these things, so seeing her always brightens my spirit. Thank you for your friendship over the years, the laughs though the good and the harder days too. You are one of the most patient people I have ever have come to know in my 70 years. Most important your kindness and ability to give to others is to me the reason why you are able to take the pictures you take... Namaste, your friend, Phyl
My dear wonderful Phyl, many many thanks and greetings from Marei and little Anni (we tell her about you and she "knows" who you are) All our deepest thanks. Christoph
Wonderful interview Yvette with wise words Christoph !!
Thanks so much Gerard.
Thanks, Yvette and Christoph !
Ich danke Dir Hans Martin! many thanks
compliments Christophe, and a very interesting interview
Thanks a lot Piet, your words mean a lot to me
Dear Christoph, your work goes straight to the heart and to the soul !!! We all know already through your pictures what a warm personality and gently person you are. But it was such a pleasure to interview you and to know some more about the man behind the images. Thanks for sharing with all of us. Cheers, Yvette
I thank you dear Yvette for all the effort you take. I think i can imagine, what it means to do what you do for 1x. Many thanks for that. To carry an idea and t stand for it is seldom in these days. Christoph