We zoomed in on the life of photographer and traveller Andreas Herzau and got an absolutely clear image of what his “clicky” life is like. He goes beyond the lens, talking about his experiences and his relationship with his family, his own self and, of course, his camera and work!
Here’s our intensive interview of the world-class photographer.
Answer from Andreas: That is not the problem. I will answer in my wife’s words after we spent two weeks on holiday: “Why am I living with a photographer? This year we have no pictures from our vacation; as always!”
So – I am not a maniac, I am just a photographer.
Q: I have noticed that several photographers talk to their cameras as if they were
their own children. Do you do that too?
A: I’ve never had a conversation with any of my machines!
Q: The Berlin wall was broken in 1989 whilst you were working as a freelance writer in Germany. Were you there when it happened and what was your reaction?
A: That time can be said to be a transition phase in my life; I was switching more and more from
words to photography. At first we didn’t believe what had happened. But we jumped into our car and drove to the former border. During the following period, we were shocked by how quickly our country would be sold out – I think it was a clear definition of “reunification”. In the years to follow since then, I’ve worked a lot in the former GDR for the news magazine “Der Spiegel” and have learned to appreciate this part of Germany.
Q: In ‘Calcutta-Bombay: 8 hours by taxi’ you buried yourself in two melting pots. What differences did you notice between India and the West? OR What perspectives of the cities still serve your memory today?
A: I have no real memory. I did the journey from Calcutta to Bombay as an assignment. The task was to fly to Calcutta, rent a taxi and drive it as quick as possible to Bombay. The feelings that I felt during this trip can’t be described in words and should be translated into images. So I sat in a taxi – together with my colleague Charlotte Wiedemann, and experienced the entire trip like a rush. It‘s actually a road movie, so I’ve edited the book as if it were a trip.
Q: You were awarded the Hansel-Mieth Award for the documentary Human Remains, 110 kg in 1999 which spoke of an Indian refugee committing suicide in Germany. Could you expound on it a little further?
A: This was a classic example of journalism: at first there was a small notice in a small newspaper, regarding this suicide case. And we found ourselves asking the questions, ‘’what happened, what was the reason, who was this person?’’. On doing some research it was found that he died in a prison in Germany due to which another question arose in our minds-“Why was he imprisoned?”
It was more of a big research paper than a photographic story. And the main part included the writer. The explication in this case was that the prisoner came from the north of India; from a tiny village .He was caught stealing money from the village community to pay his trip to Europe. After a long ride he was captured in Germany and was detained in a prison for common criminals and right wing activists. The one thing that was quite clear was that German law did not take international criminals entering their country very lightly and that he was sentenced due to this reason. The reasons that lead him to killing himself arose because he was probably afraid to get repatriated in his village. Faced with such a situation, he saw only one of 2 possibilities – to stay in prison or to take his own life.
Q: In ‘Istanbul’ you contrast a lot of aspects of the city as a whole. Does this contrast represent reality and some actual events during your stay?
A: Of course. But that’s not the main point. I spent a lot of time in Istanbul and took so many pictures; but at the end of the day the most important thing is the editing, because we’re talking about a book here. It is a self-contained object. My ambition (There are people who say that it has already been fulfilled) was actually to create a feel for the city. That is, when you’re reading the book, you get a sense of what it’s like to walk through the city. Alternating the photos with text guaranteed a certain rhythm, which at the same time added a little suspense. It’s like film editing, except that the photos aren’t in motion.
Q: Speaking of ‘Istanbul’ again, you use a mode of Street Photography. Is it hard to roam unnoticeably with a camera without altering the natural state of the focal point?
A: 50 percent of my ability to take pictures on the street has something to do with social competence: to know how you have to act and to learn to communicate without words, to feel and to understand whether the others like how you behave with the camera. If you are a part of the scene you virtually invisible …