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"Thank you Corona, you nasty Möpp!"* Or: Tips for street photography without people during the pande

Guest article and interview on the blog of Nürnberg unposed Collective.

An invitation to question the general rules of the genre every now and then

There are not many photographers in Germany who have developed such a distinctive style in such a short time and have earned national and international recognition and various awards - Guido Klumpe, aka

Hallo Guido, welcome to our blog and thank you for your contribution.

Thank you very much for the great compliment and your invitation, I am very pleased!

Tell us briefly who you are and what you do.

I am 49 years old and live with partner and two cats in Hannover. I earn my money as a social pedagogue at the "Stiftung Anerkennung und Hilfe". This is a federal foundation that supports former children in institutions if they have experienced suffering and injustice there.

How did you get into photography, or street photography in particular?

I came to photography as a teenager, I was volunteering at a youth center and was asked if I would like to photograph concerts. That's when I got hooked. Later I built up a photo lab there and showed the kids the first steps with the camera. In 1993, I spent 9 months touring Asia and discovered street photography without knowing the genre even existed. With my studies came other interests. In 2016, I rediscovered my passion for the genre through a documentary about street photographers in New York.

How would you yourself describe or characterize your street photos / style, how has it changed over the years?

In the beginning I thought black and white was the only true street. I always cared about composition and happily tried following and breaking the rules of design. After a vacation to the Mediterranean and the colors there, it was over with SW. Suddenly I found the monochrome bland. The colors in my pictures became stronger and clearer, the image design more reduced and focused. Meanwhile I see the city as an urban landscape, whose forms, colors and light I document in relation to its inhabitants. With the onset of the pandemic, my style has become much more abstract and minimalist, and I have allowed myself to take pictures without people. What else is there to do when the virus empties the streets?

Take us on a photo tour for a moment - how do your images come about, what is your approach/approach?

At the moment I like to travel around the outskirts and arterial roads of Hannover - areas that I would have found bleak before Corona. Meanwhile, I love the areas where there are lots of outlets, shopping malls, car dealerships, etc. Lots of colorful facades, graphic shapes and wide skies. And people moving around in these settings. It's like a stage that I can play with. I pay attention to graphic markers that my eye gets stuck on. It's like they light up. It can be anything, like a shopping mall with a staggered roof, or a bollard in front of a colored wall. And then I start working through it, abstracting it. To do that, I make several laps around the object, get down on my knees, go far away and close to it. It's like playing Lego: In my head, I take everything apart and reassemble it. I look for lines that meet. Shapes placed on top of each other, turning the sky into a graphic element, etc. For a gas station or a furniture store, this can easily take over an hour. In the beginning, I only see the obvious, the exciting picture ideas don't come immediately. Sometimes the light isn't right either and I come back at a different time of day. Often I superimpose several elements and pull the aperture small, so that all levels become sharp and the viewer loses orientation. I'm concerned with the fragile moment when three-dimensional elements of the cityscape transform into a two-dimensional abstract photograph that shows balanced pictorial tension. For me, a good picture is one that is not immediately understandable. A good picture catches the person looking at it and makes them ask themselves questions: What is this? Where is front and back? What is happening outside the picture? I prefer to be out and about on sunny clear days, because that's when colors really shine and the harsh contrasts give me more creative options. Wherever possible, I try to incorporate people into the scenery, but that doesn't always work out. And since I see myself as a street photographer, I would never take extras, even if that is sometimes hard.

Elsewhere you talk about your visual impairment - to what extent does it limit you in your photography, or perhaps is it what makes your photography work?

Since birth I see only on the right eye. And more than 25% is not possible with it. I think both are true. It is a limitation and at the same time it makes my photography. The limitation is that I miss many details that other photographers see immediately, especially such brilliant juxtapositions of a Siegfried Hansen or Francesco Sembolini. And it makes me a slow photographer. I build my stages and am forced to wait - I am simply too lame for classical candid. And at the same time my seeing determines my photography: every day I experience how my seeing plays a trick on me. What I think is a dog on the meadow was just a plastic bag. Or the stairs do not lead there, as I suspected. I process this playfully in my abstract photographs: when the person looking at the picture wonders what is in front or behind, what is above and what is below, then I am happy. The photo works. I suppose I want to share a bit of my experience with it.

What does street photography give you, what does it mean to you?

I would love to make a living out of it. There is nothing more fulfilling for me. All I'm missing is a collector to make it happen 😉 Street photography takes me to and beyond the limits of my vision. Through photography I see more of the world. It's great when others like what I see.

Thank you, dear Guido - they clearly do! Let's dive a little deeper into your street photography - THE BLOG IS ALL YOURS....

It feels strange and immoral to be thankful for the virus and the shutdown.

Corona is making people sick and lonely, killing them and destroying livelihoods. No, I am not thankful for Corona. But I am thankful for a side effect: the deserted streets during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020. But from the beginning:

I am a member of the "Unposed Society Hannover." We are a collective that only realized some time after its foundation that the term "Unposed" is actually already occupied by another collective from Southern Germany 😉 . Anyway, we came up with a project: "Hold the line, please!". Seven guys, seven streetcar lines in Hannover. Each picked a line and was to take photos along it from January to June 2020. We wanted to present the best photos at an exhibition in August. Failed, of course.

It's March 24, 2020, Lockdown, day 2, beautiful sunny weather, clear air, and bright colors. I'm on vacation and really feel like taking pictures. I swear to myself to watch out, to keep my distance and go outside. But there is no one on the street. Nobody. Bored, I walk my streetcar line along an arterial road and reach a housing complex with different colored cubist houses. Something draws me to it. I think "What the heck. I can delete it" and start experimenting. I photograph corners of houses, and look for backgrounds that match. It feels strange and unfamiliar, because I am a street photographer after all. I photograph people.

That day I realized how limiting such a sentence can be. By doing without the possibility of getting a person into the picture, completely new possibilities open up: I can determine what is above and below, what is in front and what is behind. I can make the sky a graphic element and confuse the eye at will.

"That's not Street!" some may think. "Why not, where exactly is the line?" would be my response. And, "What's the big deal?". Take a look at Siegfried Hansen or Francesco Sembolini. Both highly recognized and successful street photographers, both do minimalist and abstract photography when they feel like it. There are such a few phrases that circulate in the street scene: Real street photographers are only on the street with wide angle up to a maximum of 35mm, telephoto and zoom are not possible at all, true street is only candid from close distance, etc.

I think such pigeonholes and rules can encourage creativity and provide orientation. Shooting only at 35mm can encourage creativity because it's a constraint that makes you get close to the subject and work with different angles and levels to get the image "clearer" and "deeper".

But it can also be a limitation that hinders you in your artistic development. Which of these is true, only you can say. Listen to your intuition. Especially if you feel stuck and think you've seen and photographed everything before, go out and forget that you are a street photographer. Forget what street is supposed to be like.

If you only shoot monochrome, do something in color and vice versa. If you're only shooting 28mm, borrow a 135mm lens and go Saul Leiter on it. For a walk, decide not to photograph people. Or only shoot at one-eighth of a second. Look for lines that meet other lines. Take only out-of-focus photos from the ground for a day. For a week, find out what you can photographically

mit Autos machen kann. Mache eine Serie von Pflanzen in der Stadt, zum Beispiel von den „Gärten des Grauens“.

Die Möglichkeiten sind endlos.

Man hört immer wieder, dass es erstrebenswert ist, „seinen“ Stil zu entwickeln, unverwechselbar zu werden. Ich finde das stimmt. Es lässt sich aber nicht erzwingen. Das kommt mit der Zeit. Aus eigener Erfahrung kann ich sagen: Je mehr Du experimentierst und die Vorstellung davon loslässt, wie andere Street definieren, desto eher findest Du Dein Thema. Gib Dich nicht zu schnell zufrieden mit Deinen Fotos. Sei nicht zufrieden mit dem Offensichtlichen. Gehe tiefer. Zeige nicht nur, was da ist, sondern auch, wie Du es siehst. Entdeckst Du einen interessanten Ort, nimm Dir Zeit. Erforsche die Szenerie, probiere verschiedene Standorte und Blickwinkel, arbeite mit Ebenen. Komm wieder zu einer anderen Tageszeit oder Lichtsituation.

Hätte mir jemand im Februar 2020 gesagt, dass ich in Kürze ein bisschen dankbar für menschenleere Straßen sein würde- ich hätte ihn für verrückt erklärt.

*Möpp, nasty: Rhenish regional dialect for an unpleasant, unfriendly or nasty person



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