From In Secret, All images © Friederike Von Rauch

Cheap & Plastique‘s Violet Shuraka interviews Berlin-based photographer
Friederike Von Rauch for issue #12. See more of Friederike’s work here.

C & P: You live and work in Berlin. How long have you been working there?
Friederike: My whole life, I grew up in former West Berlin, but I work wherever my projects take me.

C & P: Where do you photograph your various series? Is each series shot in a different location?
Friederike: Most series include a variety of different locations. Within the series I often switch the place. So for example for my series Sleeping Beauties I selected museums in Europe. The Transept series deals with churches of postwar modernism in Germany, Ash on the other hand is shot only in Iceland.

C & P: What inspires you to make a body of work about a particular space/place? Are these spaces that are accessible to all or do you seek out permission to photograph certain areas that are maybe hidden/off limits from public view?
Friederike: Most of the time I have seen a location and keep it in the back of my head until suddenly it seems exactly the right time to base a project around it.
A public and well-known place can generate this sort of fascination, if the particularity of the architecture or history of the place creates a special atmosphere.
I think this one moment of enchantment is what it takes to pique my curiosity. Many places you can simply visit, but many require painstaking preparation and permissions to gain access to for a photography project.


From In Secret, All images © Friederike Von Rauch

C & P: Is there any architectural space or place that you have always wanted to photograph?
Friederike: There are still quite a few, most of the time my creative work only starts after tedious process to gain permission.
For it to even happen at all, you need a certain amount of patience. So, really, everything is still possible!

C & P: Many of your photographs capture light cascading down a wall or in a corner of a room, various abstract details within an interior, details that many may not notice when passing through a space. What interests you about architecture and the small details that emerge when a space is looked at in a certain angle and with certain light? Are you more interested in the details rather than a place as a whole?
Friederike: …I am not sure since it is only through the whole architecture of a building I’m there at all. Then, however, and especially lately, it pulls me into corners, walls, and little details that I seem to notice. But initially I have to free myself of all stimulatory sensations, which can take awhile. When I do see my motive, I recognize it straight away, and then its meaning becomes clear to me—even more if it has been sitting there right in front of me the whole time.
For example: I find something that seems interesting at first, but that is not worth photographing. Then, something changes unexpectedly—the light, perhaps—and it might just happen that suddenly I am mesmerized by the whole setting.


From Neues Museum, All images © Friederike Von Rauch

C & P: There is a certain mood evoked through light and shadow in the spaces you choose to photograph. What draws your eye to these minimal, abstracted, geometric, compositions?
Friederike: It is as if I am not looking for it, but just find it. I then feel a moment of relief. Reduction and pureness is what attracts me.

C & P: The light in your images is very beautiful. Do you ever use artificial lighting or are all your images shot utilizing only natural light?
Friederike: I use the given light which can be natural light, but also artificial. What I never do, however, is to light the setting myself.
I am infatuated and surprised by light and its effect on me. I love to observe the light on nearly invisible and subtle areas.

C & P: Do you shoot on film or with a digital SLR? Do you use the computer as a tool when creating your images? Do you ever edit an image in Photoshop or are we seeing a print of what is created in a negative?
Friederike: I work analogue, so classic on negative, but then I switch to digital, I scan my negative and print digitally.
Certainly I change little things, but the real work is, however, while taking pictures.


From Transept, All images © Friederike Von Rauch


From Transept, All images © Friederike Von Rauch

C & P: You often shoot concrete walls and concrete structures. Many find concrete to be ugly and brutal, however, your images of concrete are quite the opposite. What attracts you to concrete as a surface?
Friederike: Frankly, I never had difficulties with concrete, I find the material very beautiful—from very coarse to very fine.
I love the gray color and the aging process. Maybe concrete is underestimated?

C & P: You have some photo series that are shot in Iceland. One series consisting of Icelandic landscapes, Ash Iceland, is especially beautiful. Did you travel to Iceland specifically to make a body of work there? Have you developed a special relationship with Iceland, as many photographers do, because of it’s extraordinary natural beauty and magical light?
Friederike: Yes, I actually applied for a residency in Iceland, because it has attracted me so much. Since then I have made 2 big trips there. The country has an unseen sky and an infinite emptiness and otherness. The light is really out of this world.


From Ash Iceland, All images © Friederike Von Rauch

C & P: Which part of Iceland are the Ash Iceland photographs shot in?
Friederike: Directly on the volcano in Iceland, the one responsible for the large ash cloud over Europe in 2010 (Eyjafjallajökull Volcano).

C & P: Many of your image series seem like fading dream sequences. Would you like the viewer to develop a narrative when viewing your photographs or would you prefer the images to be looked at individually as abstract compositions?
Friederike: I see them as a independent, not a narrative composition, the images also work in isolation from their series. How one looks at them, is up to the viewer.

C & P: Generally there are no humans in your photographs. Is there a reason for this absence? Have you ever photographed people? Would you ever consider including people within the frame of one of your images?
Friederike: The fact there are hardly any people in the photographs has to do with my devotion to places and my wish to dedicate my full attention to the space.
Practically, I prefer to work alone and in complete silence so, when possible, outside of public opening hours. So far it does not interest me to integrate people in my work, but their marks you can see very well.


From In Secret, All images © Friederike Von Rauch

C & P: Could you describe the process of working on the series In Secret?
Friederike: The Neues Museum Project from 2009 has kicked off this series.
Two years later, I followed an invitation to Dresden where I was working for one week, totally undisturbed in the old picture gallery.
By then I was infected. The majority of these images were taken in museums: places that preserve, reflect and exhibit Europe’s cultural history, such as art galleries, sculpture depots, restoration studios, archives, and other similar spaces—The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, BOZAR in Brussels, the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden, and the New Palace in Potsdam, as well as the Academia di Belle Arti and Palazzo Grimani in Venice—are all featured.

C & P: Sieveking Verlag published a book of these photographs titled In Secret in 2013. Was this your first book? Do you enjoy the process of creating a book?
Friederike: This is my 3rd book.
My first book Sites was published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, showing works from Berlin, Brussels, and Rotterdam, my 2nd book features images taken of the New Museum in Berlin.
The 3rd book, In Secret, brings together the work of the Sleeping Beauties and the Transept series with a few other images.
Making a book is always a big challenge for the artist—the selection of images, design, papers, text, and printing is pure stress—and it is very important to find a partner who you can trust. I was very pleased with and felt supported by Sieveking Verlag.


From Sites, All images © Friederike Von Rauch

C & P: There seems to have been a reemergence in the popularity of the photo book in the past few years. Do you have a preference to which way you view photographs, do you prefer seeing a photographer’s prints in a gallery setting versus reproductions in art book form?
Friederike: That’s not a equal comparison. I work very long and hard until I produce the perfect print on just the right paper.
I do find the photo book a wonderful independent medium to show my work. However, the offset does not correspond to the original and that’s a good thing.

C & P: What are your thoughts about photographers utilizing Instagram? Do you have an Instagram account?
Friederike: I do not have an Instagram account, nor an opinion about it

C & P: You exhibited photographs in a 2 person show at i-8 in Reykjavik, Iceland in December, what work did you show? And how did the collaboration with this painter come about?
Friederike: It was a show of my work along with the artwork of my friend, Eggert Pétursson. Eggert paints, I photograph and the collaboration was really new and exciting for me, several works from the past 5 years were on display.

C & P: What projects are you working on currently?
Friederike: I’m working on a series with monasteries. I am, of course, searching out the monasteries according to their architecture, but the ability to live and work there at the same time while completing the work is wonderful, this allows me to respond directly to light and atmosphere.

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