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“
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.