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Interviews

Michael Wittig (II)

February 9, 2015

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In your photos it seems that the shoes are alive and just resting. Every pair has a story to tell. What were the difficulties of the session? Were the shoes good models?

Thank You! This is the biggest compliment you could give me – it is the central point of what I try with my photographs: to give the viewer the feeling that the subject lives. O-tone Gerd: “The pictures mark a milestone in my shoe collector’s life…”

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Your impression is very close to the subject. The photographed shoes are worn on a daily basis. Of course, depending on the season. Nevertheless the preparation for the shooting took Gerd Wermescher five weeks before he was content with the results. Because of our exhibition Gerd received the duty of curating several shoe collections, including shoes from famous shoemakers e.g. Otto Bartkiewicz, Béla Nagy – predecessor of Georg Materna, Ludwig Reiter, Laszlo Vass and Istvan Feher.
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Yes, they have a story to tell – each and every pair. Gerd was so kind to share a few of his fond memories with me. For what it’s worth, our goal – setting a new standard for shoe photography. We went away from the still life with exotic wood, booze and cigars. The focus is on the shoes itself. Our ingredients were a historical building and a rough surface on concrete, enabling the shoes to be the main act of the story.
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I wanted to work just with the available light. The “Hipp Halle” has an own independent existence with such a special feeling and I wanted the shoes to unfold their stories and tell them in this surrounding. I tried to get some different “portraits” with every pair of shoes and depending on what I saw, some of the shoes told me their stories. There were no technical difficulties instead of less light sometimes, but the actual challenge was to show the personality of the shoes and make them – or, better said, to keep them – alive in the photographs. Understood – not one of the photographs got any editing or retouching, I present the whole session “out of cam” – no Photoshop.

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Share with us your favorite image and why? (provide photo)

Gerd is torn between the black pebble grain Norweger boot from Master Gyula Kiss and the Norweger made of Nile perch leather from the famous Maftei workshop in Vienna.

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My favorite is the detail, looking like a scar, on a black shoe with bronze accents. This picture reflects the story of the shoe and his owner…

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What has been your most memorable session and why? 

The shoe session of course was one of my most memorable photo productions. One subject that is, even after 9 years, one of my favorite works, is the adaption of the “bleu sang” illustrations from the formerly Yugoslavian artist Enki Bilal. It was just a try. I like Bilal’s work. It is strong and intensive. The picture language is very individual and it was a special moment trying to translate that into photographic speech not just copying the subject into a setup that shows the illustration in reality. I tried so translate the essence, of course keeping the subject, but with an own feeling considering the personality of my wonderful model Denise.

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A painting is a painting, a film is a film, a photograph is a photograph – this sounds simple, but it is important to realize that you create something new, when you adapt a different medium. People often read a book and when they see a movie that was based on that book they are disappointed. That is normal, when people watch a film having the pictures from reading the book in their minds. A movie cannot show what your fantasy is able to show you – every human’s fantasy is individual and has no borders. You have to appreciate artwork for itself and might not compare with expectations and of course not with your fantasy. If you want to see, you have to be open minded. I don’t know what Enki Bilal would think about my adaption of his work, but I really love and respect what the subject gave me and if it’s thematically relevant, I could show you one or two of the photographs out of that session in my exhibitions.

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Nikon or Canon, other? Favorite lens?

Canon and Nikon. I do not take part in the sometimes ideological “for and against” technique. It is just the tool that I am working with. Most time I work with Canon, the shoe session I did with a Nikon D700. It has in some cases a small advantage with sharpness, especially when you photograph out of the hand with low light. But the same results you can get with Canon with a calm hand or a few more photos that are not sharp. I like to photograph with a 50mm 1.4 lens, that is a “must have” with the best price performance relation possible. I liked to work with a 100mm 2.8 macro lens for some shoe details with impressing results. Beside I also love to work with analogue cameras sometimes. But it takes more time investment and time sometimes is so little…

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What is your next project?

After the shoe session I had a great collaboration with the painter Cornelia Caufmann and we had a wonderful exhibition in the “Hipp Halle”, one of my 3 important exhibitions beside the shoe exhibition and one with fashion photographies at the museums quarter in Vienna last summer. That was really creatively fulfilling, and this year I will have a new cooperation with a great artist. But it’s too early to talk about, only as much at this moment – we will combine his objects with people and create setups to tell stories. Beside this I always work in portraiture to fulfill my portfolio with more and more speaking portraits for exhibition and publication.

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