Zum InhaltsverzeichnisVirtuelles Magazin 2000 

Interview Herbert Böttcher | www.boettcher-photography.de
by Michael Douglas Brown, Canada | www.ventilate.ca

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I came across photography late, when I was 25. Untill that time I was a salesman and eventually I went back to school. I had never owned a camera before that, but when I took a picture of an old woman with a friends camera in 1987 - it was the second photo I had ever taken - I became fascinated by the possibilities of the medium. Two weeks later, after working out the one photo of the old woman in a darkroom again and again, I decided to study photography.

During my studying at University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld / Germany (1988 -1993), I recognized my personal aim of photography - to illustrate my visions. I don't want to show what I see - I want to express the pictures from inside.

2. You primarily used a pinhole camera to shoot the photography seen on www.boettcher-photography.de. I believe a pinhole camera is a lens-less camera that is hand made using household products, is this right?

A pinhole camera could be made out of several materials. At least, you must build up a darkroom with a hole and a shutter to control the exposure time. The sharpness of the photograph, among other things, depends on the correct size of the hole and the thickness of the used material for the pinhole.

3. Can you describe the make-up of your camera?

Since 1990 I have built many cameras. The reasons for using and creating pinhole cameras, for me always follows the experiment of expressing my pictures from inside.

In 1990 I became fascinated by the contrasting atmosphere of an old war memorial. On one hand, there was the speech of the architecture which was able to express an ecclesiastical spirit in a strong way - on the other hand, I don't agree with the glorification of war. The conceptual background was, to find a visual way to express the a break between the two. I created a round camera and put demolished film-pices inside.

A similar atmosphere, I found at a military training area in 1993. On one hand, the nature grows up in a very colorful way in ecological recesses - on the other hand nature became destroyed by the military. I used a camera with the possibility of exposing the film at both sides. The backround was, to look in oppositional directions and to create oppositional colors by the physics chemistry property of the films.

On a daily basis I use a pinhole camera that works with the perfection and possibilities of industrial cameras, but with several options of manually controlling the creative process.

4. What kind of exposure time is required when using a pinhole camera?

For my favourite camera, during the day 0.5 - 2 seconds. In the evening and morning time a longer exposure is more appropriate.

5. I recently discovered that Ansel Adams used a pinhole camera for many of his nature shots. Is there a distinct advantage to using pinhole cameras?

A general answer is not possible. The ways of taking photographs are as different as the people who take them. What I mean is, that there are several ways of thinking, feeling and expressing. The pinhole photography is one part of all. Yes, I love this way of working and the creative possibilities - but we need the variety to draw pictures of the world, there are specific pros and cons.

6. A traditional pinhole photographer may claim that the merging of pinhole photography and digital manipulation is paradoxical. Why combine an anti-technology medium with a cutting-edge technology?

In my opinion the use of a pinhole camera at times, where digital media are available, is not a fallback into ancient history of photography, but rather a conscious decision. Creative work with the pinhole camera in combination with digital applications offers extraordinarily sophisticated possibilities for new photographical areas. I live with the happiness, the conflicts - and all of the creative possibilities of this time !

7.Many of your images focus on abstract shapes. Do you envision a final contour while shooting, or does this come together during the digital processing?

There are two main steps before starting photography. When I have a feeling for the theme - the pictures come themselves.

At first I am collecting information about the theme. Mostly at this time, I create a first picture inside my head. Sometimes I am making scribbles about it, not to forget the quick ideas. In the second step, I try to find a way of realising the pictures, or better, visions. At this point, during searching for it, I have to decide between lens or lensless photography, too.

When I'll take lens photographs, the digital possibilities are playing a big part up from the beginning. When I decide to take pinhole photographs, the digital media doesn't play a big role at that point. (Mostly I decide to take pinhole photographs - only >women and man< and >office< are lens photographs at boettcher-photography)

When I am in front of my objects, at first I am collecting information again - but with the camera. I want to give an example: When I was in Spain to take the pictures of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, for nearly 5 complete days I walked around and looked at every corner outside of the building. Every day in the evening, I controlled my results of work the negatives, for 1-2 hours. In that atmosphere of silence and concentration, I compared the results with my thoughts and feelings of the day. At the end of every day I created the steps for next day.
I am remembering, up from the 6th day I was able to walk around the building in my thoughts, full of pictures. I knew everything about the light and a lot of perspectives at the correct time. Up from that time, I created the concrete versions of the multiple exposures inside of my head.
I needed 5 more days ( mostly I waited for the best light ) for taking the photographs. After this time, in the evenings there were no differences between my results on film and my visions. Sometimes I walked around the building without taking any more photographs and enjoyed the nice town for two days.

Each of my Guggenheim photographs are made with multiple exposures onto one negative. After printing in my darkroom, I scanned the prints and mostly modified only the colors and some contrasts digitaly. Nowadays, I prefer to scan the films without printing, but the way of finding my working results is the same.
In my opinion the digital possibilities offer a great liberation for creative work, because the borders for realizing visionary photography became smaller. You can use digital options when you want - but you must not use.

8. Are the images in your architecture showcase of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain?

Yes, some of them. But there are some more Gehry projects too. There are photographs of the Vitra Design Museum, The New Zollhof and the Energy-Forum-Innovation, as well. In November 2002, there was a nice exhibition of my work in the Energy-Forum-Innovation / Germany.

9. Your landscape photography is some of the most beautiful photography I have come across. Can you tell us how you achieved the misty, smoke effect seen over the water in the Bretagne photo set?

Thank you ! For this, I used a film which needs a long exposure time. By the way, I hope to create a nice wall-calendar with that and some new photographs, together with a company in autumn 2003.

10. It has become tradition on ventilate to ask as a last question, what was the last great book you read and what was the last great movie you have seen?

I like the books of Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Albert Camus, Dario Fo and John Steinbeck.
Hm, last great movie ? I have forgotten the title - I only remember the nice pictures, I will ask my girlfriend ... it was a film by David Lynch.

Thank-you for all the insight Herbert ..... let us know of any new work you put up on www.boettcher-photography.de