Josef Schulz
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INTERVIEW WITH JOSEF SCHULZ

18/09/04 with Manuela Klerkx, Milano

1. In a text about your work, written by Thomas Ruff for the catalogue Sachliches, he declares that you take a distance from the “objectivity” of photography and that you show that pictures are always the construct of the visual power of imagination of the artist. Do you agree with this statement and if yes, how do you show that in your work?

Yes, I do agree with this statement. In the work as a photographer, you are always limited by the different techniques and the temporary moment. When I’m taking the photo, I try to see my possible later work. My work is not just a portray of something, I try to develop a abstract beyond the reality. I like also the haptic moment of different structures, and try to give it more importance.

2. You studied with Bernd & Hilla Becher in Dusseldorf but one of your favorite photographers is the american Stephen Shore. What especially do you like in these people’s work and in what way does your work reflect and/or takes a distance from theirs? For instance I have the feeling that you don’t “purify” your images from all subjective or temporary elements like the clouds in the sky, a shadow, ecc. Why is that?

I like the photography and also the elements on the photo. The opposite of such a work would be a 3-D rendered image, as architects use. There is no life in it. I´m interested in these edge, where the photo does become something different and more abstract. The work gives you just an idea of this situation. Shore and Eggleston have got a lot of abstract moments in their works, their photos tell you a lot about unplanned situations, which I’m also looking for.

3. Where does your preference for mass-produced industrial buildings like warehouses, storages and factories often built out of pre-fabricated cheap materials such as slabs of concrete or corrugated sheet metal come from?
Has this choice anything to do with the fact that you use digital image processing in your work?

I was always interested in these areas. Nobody cares about it. There is no structure but an organic chaotic growth. It tells you much more about the reality. It is the opposite of living world.

4. You know that the german photographer Thomas Demand uses the same digital process but the other way around: he physically constructs blue-prints of architectural structures which he makes appear, through the digital image, as real as possible. What you do is the opposite: you start from a traditional photography of f.i. an industrial hall and by using digital image processing you clean it from any detail which isn’t of any interest to you and make it look like part of a virtual reality. How important is this technical process in your work? Is it a means or a goal in itself?

I like some small moments in different photographs, like wallstructures, shadows, differnt forms and had the idea to work more just with this moments. A photography is always a compromise. So I invented my way of work, which means, that in the first step I’m a photographer with his limitations and than an artist with his freedom of decisions.
The technical process always belongs to the work of a photographer, the digital image processing is just another step. In the beginning of the series “sachliches”, i started with simple structures, to discover the different possibilities of these technique but the process had no goals in itself.
Demand field of interest is more the sculpture. Photography belongs just to his process, being of no great importance.

5. In your latest series of work, which I am delighted to show in Milan, I have the impression that the images become more complex and more enigmatic? A bit like in a David Lynch movie you wonder whether what you see is real or not and you wonder to which world the images belong: the one of the livings or that of the aliens?

The latest works belong to the series “Formen”. At first works there was more the sculptural form, which I found interesting. But more and more I found forms which dont´t have only the sculptural presence, they try to tell you a story. The absence of a story, was one of the ideas in “sachliches”. The last forms are in one way the opposite of “sachliches”. But there is no concrete story, which I’m telling.

6. Another interessing observation of Ruff is by saying that, through the use of the digital processing in your work, you eliminate the gap between “photographic” and “painted” reality. I would almost go a step further: don’t you consider yourself almost a painter?
I mean, you start from a traditionally taken photograph of an existing object which, through digital processing, you transform and make it look as if it were a building you invented. In the same way, a painter makes a drawing of a building and through his interpretation he makes it look according to his imagination. The only difference is that instead of a painter using pencils, you paint so to say in a digital way.
Do you agree with this description?

It´s just the work of a visual artist. You have to act and work with your images. In the end you are getting works. Artists use just the techniques and technology for their work. A sculptor uses also the modern techniques.
I´m not a painter, because i rely on different technical limitations, but i try to bring my idea together with the photographic image. We have had in the past a lot of discussions about the value of photography as art. But photography isn’t just the moment of taking photos. It’s the same work as every other artist have.

Thank you for this interview