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Bastian Thiery

PiB Interview Nº14 | June 2020

Enjoy the #PiBinterview Nº14 in the series »7 Questions for…«, this time with the photographer Bastian Thiery!
(Anm. d. Red.: Dieses Interview gibt es auch hier auf Deutsch zu lesen!)

PiB: Welcome, Bastian! Would you please introduce yourself?

Bastian Thiery (BT): My name is Bastian Thiery and I’m a photographer based in Berlin. I see my personal work at the intersection of documentary and artistic photography. Drawing on images I find in the real world, I tell a fictional story. My self-published book ‚Humpelfuchs‘, tells the story of a nightly walk through Neukölln, searching a fox. ‚Humpelfuchs‘ won the 2nd Prize of the Vonovia Award für Fotografie and should’ve been shown at the Landesvertretung Niedersachsen in May, but the exhibition has unfortunately been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

PiB: How/when did you get involved with photography, and what does photography mean to you?

BT: I first got involved with photography when I moved to New York. At that time I was working as a model and taking pictures on my travels, which I shared on Instagram, that just came out at that time. My dad saw my photos and gave me an old Nikon, which they cleared-out at the school he was working at. Modeling in New York didn’t work out as expected, so I used the free time to experiment with the camera and darkroom printing. I realized that I’m drawn to photographing strangers, but in a non-obtrusive way, more like improvising a quick portrait on the street. It was so special to me (and still is) to not only experience the world around me in a completely new sensual way but also to translate my sensation onto a print. A friend recommended me to take a class at ICP, where I heard about their collaboration with Ostkreuzschule. I guessed that the two waiter jobs, I would’ve had to work to finance my education in New York wouldn’t have left much room for taking pictures, so I moved back to Berlin to study at Ostkreuzschule, which proved just right for me.

PiB: Does Berlin provide a good environment for you to work in the arts – and what is your evaluation for the future?

BT: Sometimes I wonder if life in Berlin is a bit too comfortable compared to New York or London. There are and were chances for a bigger creative industry growing in Berlin, but I don’t see it happening on the same scale as London and New York. I believe the city (meaning administration and economy) doesn’t fully understand its creative potential. But when I think of New York or London, I also think of the struggle in these cities, that I personally find just tiring at one point. In the end, it’s what you make it. I love Berlin for its hidden magic and I find the photography and art scene a bit separated, but full with ambition and inspirational characters.

PiB: Could you please choose one image from your portfolio and share the story behind it?

BT: I chose this image because it’s the one photograph I took that sparks interest in most kids and that makes people laugh. It’s part of ‘Humpelfuchs’ and shows Lotti, who oversees the bar “Stammtisch” on Weserstraße. She always lies in the window when they’re open and is excited (in a friendly way) about any visitor. She sits on this chair all summer, and I have a number of images of her in several poses, all quite human, some leger, some cheeky but none showing her as grumpy as this one.

PiB: Is the medium photobook important to you, if so why, and which photobooks have had the greatest influence on you?

BT: I am thinking a lot about the narrative and sequencing in photo books, and how limited it seems compared to film, but also how much freedom there is, to create a new understanding of the subject. I love how photo books challenge viewers to complement the work with their own (visual) perception. Work solely presented on a wall often doesn’t touch me as much as a photo book. Maybe because photo books give you as much time as you need to develop the story in your mind? My current all-time favorites are ‚Ravens‘ by Masahisa Fukase, ‚Vinter‘ by Lars Tunbjörk and ‚ZZYXZ‘ by Gregory Halpern. The first photo book I bought was ‚Exploding into Life‘ by Eugene Richards and the last one I bought was ‚Girl Pictures‘ by Justine Kurland.

PiB: What are you afraid of?

BT: How the internet hinders us to really connect with each other and to accept differing attitudes, how we fail to search for anything outside our bubbles but find what solidifies our worldview.

PiB: What advice would you give to a photographer at the beginning of their career?

BT: Maybe I shouldn’t give advice as I’m at the beginning of my career myself. But what I find very important, is finding or creating a space to make mistakes. That was the most important aspect of studying for me, to experiment, fail, and start a new approach.

PiB: What are you currently working on, and do you already have a next project in mind?

BT: I found the two months of lockdown granting the freedom and disturbance to begin to explore my surroundings photographically again. It got a bit lost in the year after my graduation, concentrating on editorial work. I started photographing strangers again and found them as eager for response as myself.

PiB: Thank you very much for this interview, Bastian!

Editor’s note: The complete series of interviews with all 4 prize winners of the »Vonovia Award für Fotografie 2019« can be found here on PiB: Mona Schulzek, Bastian Thiery, Theodor Barth, Marlene Hoberger.
The application deadline for the Vonovia Award für Fotografie 2020 ends on June 30, 2020.

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