In a period characterized by technological advances, German photographer Jürgen Lechner looks to the earliest photographic techniques: pinhole photography with a camera obscura. In doing so, Lechner presents the spectator with contemporary scenes that highlight the often-overlooked viewpoints of our environment. Lechner’s abandon of digital photography may be unusual, but his aesthetic proves to be as innovative if not more so than any digitally based photographic style. His somber scenes have a quiet and meditative air that encourages the spectator to relish a world that seems comparable with yet far removed from our own.
In 2006 I decided to go back to the roots of photography, to rediscover pinhole photography with a “Camera Obscura” – which has become my preferred means of taking photographs. I studied the works of different artists, including painters who influenced my current work. A good photograph takes time, I often visit places several times to find the conditions I need for a special photograph. Working with a pinhole camera means an immense depth of field, a huge image circle and a long exposure time. All has to be considered. I love this “slow” photography, being one with nature, engaging in deep introspection, getting movement in the pictures, like the action of water or branches in contrast to non-moving objects to reach more tenseness. I do black and white pinhole photography only, as I think it is more mysterious, more insistent, more quiet and suits the method better than color photography.
Below is an interview with Jürgen first published by our friends over at Adore Noir, a fine art photography magazine which celebrates works in black and white.
AN: Please introduce yourself. Where do you live?
JL: My name is Juergen Lechner. I grew up in Nuremberg, Germany and currently live in Eckental, close to Franconian Switzerland, together with my girlfriend. I am member of the Federal Association of Artists of the Fine Arts in Germany.
AN: When and how did you get into photography?
JL: I got my first camera at the age of ten or eleven, and if I remember correctly it was a Polaroid camera. I took it everywhere and my most popular subject was my grandfather. Unfortunately all of the polaroids got lost.
AN: Did you have any formal training in photography?
JL: Yes, I apprenticed as a photographic lab technician, and then for photography. I worked for different photographers and since 1989 I have been freelancing. I quit ninety per cent of the commercial work six years ago, but I still do some artistic work for customers which consists mainly of calendars and image brochures, using my own style.
AN: We are showing images from your Camera Obscura series, what inspired you to create this body of work?
JL: In 2006 I decided to go back to the roots of photography, to rediscover pinhole photography with a Camera Obscura which has become my preferred means of taking photographs. I studied the works of different artists, including painters who influenced my current work. I love this slow style of photography, being one with nature, engaging in deep introspection. I like portraying movement in the pictures, like the action of water or branches, in contrast to non-moving objects.
AN: Where is your favorite place to photograph?
JL: Pretty much anywhere. I often visit places several times to find the conditions I need for a special photograph. Working with a pinhole camera means an immense depth of field, a huge image circle and long exposure times, everything has to be considered. I like foggy conditions to eliminate the often disturbing background but I also like architectural scenes or simple objects. One can find something special in everything.
AN: What are your influences?
JL: Curiously, I am more influenced by painters than photographers. My favorite painter is William Turner. The masters of photography that really impress me are Bill Brandt, Alfred Stieglitz and of course, Ansel Adams.
AN: How would you describe your art?
JL: I want to present the spectator with contemporary scenes that highlight the often overlooked viewpoints of our environment. I hope that my sombre scenes have a quiet and meditative air that should encourage the spectator to relish a world that seems comparable with, yet far removed from, our own. I only shoot black and white pinhole photographs because I think it’s more mysterious, more insistent, more quiet, and suits the method better than color photography.
AN: You have recently received some good news from an international art competition, please tell us a bit about this.
JL: Yes! This is an important point in my artistic career. Five of my Camera Obscura artworks have been awarded at the 25th Chelsea International Art Competition, NY. Juried by Ms. Megan Fontanella, (Assistant Curator) at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
AN: What is your final say?
JL: On the spur of the moment I want to take an excerpt from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
One thing I want to suggest to young photographers is to work hard and take your time with each photograph. If you have the chance it’s better to visit a place a second time, than to have a second-rate picture.
Adore Noir is a fine art photography magazine which celebrates works in black and white. Each bimonthly issue features six photographers ranging from world renowned professionals to those just starting out. Since its inception in the spring of 2011 it has found its audience among collectors, gallerists and photographers. Adore Noir serves as an inspiration to many as it draws in each reader with its in-depth Q & A interviews and photos. You get to know about each featured photographer, where their inspiration springs from and how their process works.
Adore Noir magazine is available as an App on iTunes and Newsstand and can also be downloaded as a PDF from www.adorenoir.com