I believe that art conjures that moment when something very personal enters the realm of the shared human experience. As such, I want to share my life through visuals of what I myself have seen, and am therefore deeply passionate about in a way that transcends the moment. In this way I seek to propel the viewer into a moment that will ultimately impact them such that they will more fully engage the world about them, and do so compassionately and selflessly. This I do in the hopes that the viewer will enter the realm of collective understandings about the human race, and thereby, lift the veil of the everyday and mundane in the quest for those deep connections that unite all of humanity.
At the beginning of the year I was granted the honor and privilege of exhibiting my newest creations, a series titled The Tribes of Our Generation at the amazing Willas Contemporary art gallery in Oslo, Norway. It was quite an experience for me to view the exhibition in the gallery rooms at Willas. Some pictures were displayed in my standard 50 x 60 cm frame size, but a select few were exhibited in a 1.25 by 1.04 meter format. One of the larger prints on exhibit in Oslo was that of Yana K. from St. Petersburg, and this image was installed so as to be viewable from the street. The print was such that it drew passersby into the gallery, and so it was that a woman entered the gallery in order to more closely inspect the image of Yana. The gallery owner subsequently shared the observation that the woman was so awestruck by the beauty and power of the image that she stood transfixed and mesmerized for a considerable time. In so doing she acknowledged being so overcome that she felt “goose bumps,” and this by virtue of the fact that the image of Yana elicited an otherworldly feeling that the woman remained hard-pressed to explain. This in turn prompted her to make a phone call so as to alert her husband. Shortly thereafter, the woman’s husband entered the gallery and he too experienced the same reaction, thereby prompting the two to acquire the photograph from the gallery.
Later, I met the husband who promptly proceeded to ask a host of questions about the image in question, Yana, myself, and my photography. As he himself noted, he was determined to find out why the picture of Yana touched him so deeply. He said, “the picture is beyond beautiful, and it shares something very personal about you and how you see Yana.” That’s what photography is all about; it is a reflection of my way of seeing the world, and that language and perception that defines the way I capture my surroundings. In that particular photograph, I sought to reveal Yana by way of my perceptions of her. Her beauty, her story, her dignity, her wounds, her hopes were thereby embedded in that image, and I so wanted to transcend the cliché…so as to capture that ethereal moment in an effort to capture her humanity.
I’ve had a host of other similar encounters inspired by my photography, such as that that transpired during the exhibition of my work in China. The work in question was borne of that photography drawn from the Essence series devoted to the tribal peoples of Africa and Asia. In this instance, a group of students previewed the opening of the exhibition there in China, and devoted hours to the close inspection and contemplation of my photography. Several students from the group subsequently approached me and others present to share their experience, and one of the recurrent questions that arose, that being variations of the question: “I feel something I’ve never felt before, can you explain to me what I’ve experienced, and why?”
I do very much hope that my photographs reflect my fascination with all of humanity, and its diverse cultures, traditions, and nations. While producing the images that went into the Essence series, my team and I were at the same time fully engaged in humanitarian ventures that ranged from digging wells in Ethiopia to helping a small village survive a severe drought. Upon learning that newborn babies were sometimes thrown into the river to be killed for little more than the tribal belief that they were cursed prompted my team and I to found an orphanage for these little ones. We subsequently founded orphanages in Nepal and India, and then turned our attention to a mountain village in order to save young girls from being sold into the brothels of Mumbai for the sum of $25. We then scoured some of the largest red light districts of the world in order to rescue HIV-infected babies from beneath the metal beds of prostitutes and other sex workers, and delivered these little ones to area hospitals. We followed these actions by way of establishing a women’s shelter for the at risk and endangered women of Mumbai. In our efforts to serve our fellow human beings, we subsequently established a house for the young girls of Addis Ababa in order to save them from lives of destitution working in the landfills and garbage dumps of that region. In so doing, we fought off the ravenous hyenas of the night in order to protect similarly destitute boys and girls living atop the accumulated waste of the landfills of Addis Ababa. Of course, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, our humanitarian work went hand in hand with all of those places, circumstances, and people we encountered on our many photographic and other artistic ventures that sought to more fully embrace and document the human condition.
We are an arts collective consisting of photographers, graphic artists, painters, sculptors, and musicians who seek to deploy our respective artistic creations in a manner that serves to prompt positive and humanitarian social change in the world. We further seek to support fellow artists in their quest to create amazing works of art, while at the same time enabling them to deploy their respective skills and passions in the service of their fellow human beings. To that end we have launched a new NGO, non-governmental arts collective, and a space where photographers and other artists will have ongoing access to a studio, photography darkroom, and creative workspace available for a nominal fee. We have christened our new venture the “White Rabbit Arts Collective “ and I am one of the 3 founders and leaders.
We have already acquired the photo studio and a darkroom equipped and ready for use. We will in addition offer workshops, seminars, and three-month photography internships where participants can learn those techniques used by me and a host of other photographers. The first cohort of photography interns is scheduled to arrive on 20 January, and will be hosted during the course of a three month internship opportunity.
The music studio, and adjoining creative workspace and office area, is nearing completion. The first phase of development includes a 300 square meter (circa 3,200 sq. ft.) studio area, and we have the space to expand the studios into an additional 600 square meters (circa 7,000 sq. ft.) space, since we occupy a large warehouse. We have an unbelievably low rental fee made available by the owner who supports the White Rabbit Arts Collective. As such, we are now able to offer affordable studio and other creative spaces to area artists.
As noted, the first phase of development is nearing completion, and is already available for occupancy and photographic arts programs and projects. In fact, I am already working there in the studio, and have already invested a significant amount of money into the new studio and darkroom areas. Our corporate sponsor is presently matching all monies invested into the development, but in order to complete the retrofit of the additional studio areas, we require an additional €10,000 as a match. In addition, the construction company is supporting the project, and stands ready to resume the retrofit of the expanded gallery and studio areas such that within four weeks we can complete with the broader aims of the project undertaking.
I am sharing this with all of my friends, particularly those of you who are photographers, or photography aficionados. I do hope that you will find joy in supporting our new studio project initiative with a generous donation. When the “White Rabbit Arts Collective” is up and running, we anticipate that it will be fully self-sufficient, and foresee that all revenues generated will go far to permit us to more fully develop and expand the Collective such that it will in turn support new and existing projects in Africa and Asia.
Finally, the year is slowly coming to an end, and I thought it appropriate at this time to share some of the highlights of this amazing year.
At the beginning of the year I spent a good deal of time experimenting with alternative photographic processes, such as platinum printing, kallitype and salt prints. And as I soon discovered, I truly love the quality of salt prints, particularly their amazing tonal range and detail. As it turned out, salt printing proved the ideal process for preparing my latest series of images, that of “Of Monster and Dragon.” Salt printing transformed the creatures so depicted into amazing and beautiful images. Though it required six months of experimentation in order to master the development of the large format salt prints so produced, it was clearly time very well spent. My next major project will center on images of fish, particularly deep sea fish, and these too will be developed by way of the salt print process. I believe that taken together, both the “Of Monster and Dragon” series and that of “Fish” will exhibit these amazing worlds of insects and fish in ways not previously explored by way of such a unique medium.
I recently returned from the Paris Photo Expo where I have been one of the featured artists of the past few years. This year I was invited by Leica Camera AG to set up my studio there in the halls of the Expo, and was asked to do so in much the same way that I generally do when conducting photo shoots of the tribal peoples of Africa and Eurasia. The only real difference in this instance was that I was especially honored to do so despite the fact that I don’t generally shoot with a Leica. Rather, I use an old fashioned wooden large-format field camera. Leica nevertheless contacted me for an invitation to shoot with their premier production camera, so that I might express my unique creative signature that he so loves. So, of course, I said yes. Soon thereafter, Leica sent two photographic technicians to my home in Nuremberg in order to train me in the production of digital photography with their high-end cameras. This thereby prepared me to shoot in a new media with new state of the art technology, and soon thereafter, I departed for the Paris Photo Expo with my team.
Once ensconced at the Paris Expo, I manned the Leica booth by way of producing studio portraits of a host of VIP guests, and I did so for upwards of 5 to 6 hours. Admittedly, I had so much fun taking studio portraits, and the very long queue of people awaiting their portrait opportunity was a testament to how very well received I was there at the Paris Expo. I was absolutely amazed at how well the studio portraits turned out, and how well they were received. As a result, I decided to send all my Paris Expo “models” a unique salt print of themselves, and though it proved a good deal of work, the images were stunning.
My latest series, “The Tribes of Our Generation,” is well along in development, and very near completion. Of course, as is my custom, I continue to produce photographs so as to build upon that work completed to date, particularly when I encounter those others whose characteristics align with my vision for the series proper.
At present, I am scouting galleries and other venues within which to exhibit the series upon completion. I firmly believe that the current series holds the power and potential to capture identity in an age of unrelenting globalization. If you would like to preview the current series, please visit www.jan-schlegel.com, and follow the link to the gallery devoted to “The Tribes of Our Generation.” Please use the password “Passion” in order to access the gallery so noted.
Otherwise, for the time being, please know that there is so much more to share, but additional updates and news will need to await my next newsletter. Please standby, as the newsletter will be a regular feature at this site.
Thank you for your ongoing interest and support.
Jan C Schlegel