One Image Many Motifs

An Interview with Stephanie Jung

Citylife, Photography by Stephanie Jung

For ages artists are trying to arrest motion, capture the essence of it with due regard to the limitations of their tools at hand. It did receive further impetus with the introduction of photography. Even the very first generation of photographers like Étienne-Jules Marey’s (March 5, 1830 – May 21, 1904), Ottomar Anschütz (May 16, 1846 in Lissa – May 30, 1907), Eadweard Muybridge (April 9, 1830 – May 9, 1904) and Felix Nadar (April 6, 1820 – March 23, 1910) indulged in such passions in their own peculiar ways, often producing some very striking results. This was done even before filmmaking has begun. So far, in this regard, Stephanie Jung followed the footsteps of such illustrious names who went ahead of her. However, in doing so she did not fail to add her own deft touch. In urban landscapes of Berlin and Japan she found stories worth narrating and narrating in her own unique way.

Like any other art form, photography too has evolved in the past two years or so. Relentless experiments with this medium ensured that it ceases to be solely a tool for capturing realistic family portraits and develops into an art form in its own right. Experimental photographs are considered an objet d’art and artists like Michael Wesely find their long exposure images in the prized possession of MoMA. So for the young photographers like Stephanie Jung the key lies in stretching the limits, finding new vistas and exploring those to the fullest, both within and without. So far she used her talent effectively, capturing vivid imageries from life’s various chapters which bodes well for herself but even more importantly for her art. It is important to remember here what Felix Nadar said while summing up his thoughts about the art of photography,

According to Balzac’s theory, all physical bodies are made up entirely of layers of ghostlike images, an infinite number of leaflike skins laid on top of one another. Since Balzac believed man was incapable of making something material from an apparition – that is, creating something from nothing – he concluded that every time someone had his photograph taken, one of the spectral layers was removed from the body and transferred to the photograph. Repeated exposures entailed the unavoidable loss of subsequent ghostly layers, that is, the very essence of life.

Introduce us to the town where you spent your childhood. How do you think the environment at home and outdoors helped shape today’s Stephanie?

I grew up in a small town in South–West Germany with 20,000 inhabitants named Schifferstadt. It’s a very quiet town with a small city centre and lots of living areas. It’s quiet hard to tell how this environment helped shaping my person, but one thing I know is that growing up in a small town gave me the fascination for big cities. I didn’t know the citylife, so I was always curious about it. When travelling to the bigger cities in Germany I was always amazed by the different kind of living there.

You are handling camera from quite a young age. How do you consider the studies in Visual Communication helped your natural talent to flourish?

I was always interested in photography and I started to concentrate on it at the age of 16. I was experimenting a lot with my little compact camera, mainly focussing on details of little things, like flowers or fences.

Then, during my studies, I learned a lot about the technical aspects of photography, I bought my first DSLR camera and discovered a lot of new possibilities.

What do you make out of your role as a visual chronicler transporting the audience to a space and time that have ceased to exist?

Well, I wouldn’t say it that way. I do not transport people somewhere, I just want to visualise something which can’t be seen. We all enjoy special moments in life and we all know they exist only this moment. It’s not about the past, it’s about the present and with my style of photography I like to visualise the movement of such a moment.

Closing Time

Through multiple exposures you are able to encapsulate several fleeting moments into one frame. As an artist what do you feel about the strength of this technique for creating a story? How do you think this technique has evolved in your hands?

Yes indeed, multiple exposures offer a lot of opportunities. There are several ways in photography to tell a story, a series is a great way, but multiple exposures are different. I really like the fact that you can combine different motives in one picture, it’s very fascinating to discover new elements with every look at one image. There’s always something you haven’t seen at first sight.

It’s hard to say how this technique has evolved in my hands, I still experiment with different methods. I like to combine multiple exposures and post processing or other elements to create effects. So multiple exposures are just a part of my work.

Some of your photographs showcasing ‘Urban Movements’ border on abstractions that were hallmark of many early twentieth century paintings. Have you even consciously drawn inspirations from other form of art like painting or music? From and / or beyond the world of photography whom do you consider your greatest source of motivation and learning?

Yes, I am inspired a lot by music and, of course, other photographers. Music played a big role for several images as I like to listen to it while taking pictures. It creates its very own mood which I like to transfer into my pictures.

My greatest source of motivation and learning was an amazing photographer, Sabine Wenzel. I made several internships during my studies and through her I discovered fine art photography. She was not only a great photographer, but an amazing artist too and she was incredibly motivated and passionate about her personal works. She always pushed and challenged me, questioning me about my personal subject in photography. She sadly passed away last year, without her I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Maigo Desu

With all its contradictions, from bustling city life to the serenity of Zen garden, how did Japan present itself to your artistic senses? One of your series is named ‘Maigo Desu’ which roughly translates as ‘Is Lost’. May we enquire what has been your motive of choosing such a name?

Japan is an amazing country! I love the contrast of the bustling cities the calmness of quiet zen gardens or beautiful temple and shrines areas. Sometimes you only have to walk for 5 minutes from a bustling street to find a quiet serene garden. It was a beautiful journey for me that helped to discover this country and it inspired me a lot for my photographs.

The series Maigo desu includes pictures of buildings in the centre of Tokyo, which are built very close to each other. I was taking the pictures from the Town Hall from where you can have an amazing view of the city, but you can’t see any end of it. In such times when the city felt never-ending I had a sensation of getting completely lost in it.

Describe a typical day for yourself. What is your favourite word and why?

Well, my days aren’t always the same. But normally I check my mails after getting up and respond to them, that’s the first thing I do. Besides my city photography I work as a portrait photographer, so I mostly have one job a day. The shootings take place somewhere outdoors in Berlin, I really like working with natural light. After the shooting is done, I choose the best pictures and edit them, which takes its time. If I don’t have a portrait job to do, I keep working on my personal work, but there’s no routine to adhere in it.

My favourite word? That’s a really tough question, normally I don’t have one. But the word I’m using the most is somehow. I think that puts things and opinions in certain perspective. But most of it all is simply a habit.

Do you feel travelling to different parts of the world enriches your soul? Before embarking on a tour do you make meticulous plans or are you more spontaneous in this regard?

Yes, travelling is so enriching for my mind. It’s important for me to see and explore different places. It’s always great to learn something new. I also need that to free my mind from the Alltag. My trips are more spontaneous than planned, but there are both sides of it. I plan to visit some famous spots I want to see, the rest is pretty spontaneous and cosy.

Holocaust Memeorial

Closer home you spend a lot of time exploring the many nooks and corners of Berlin. How do you think your photography has helped unravel the multitudinous facets of the city? At any point of time during your creative pursuits do you ever feel deeply satisfied with your work?

I don’t think all the facets of Berlin can be unravelled, there are too many different elements of this city, but without them it wouldn’t be Berlin. I like to show the city exactly how it is, of course with exaggeration, but I don’t intend to explain the city better. You have to come to Berlin to experience this city.

I used to feel more satisfied with my work a 2–3 years ago, now this part got harder. Sometimes when working on a new series, I’m first excited about an image, but then after one day I don’t like it anymore. But that way I know I have to work and explore more to get the results I’m looking for.

Do you plan to explore other alleys of the world of photography? How do you see your journey unfolding from here?

Yes, I’m currently exploring other fields of photography. Since last year I’m also focussing on people and portrait photography. It’s so different from my usual work, but I’m having a lot of fun, as I can work with people and it’s always a challenge to capture someone’s character through photography.

Portrait of Stephanie Jung

Stephanie Jung

The frenzied affairs of big cities seem to stir Stephanie’s imagination like no other. From all her travels, Japan impressed her most. In near future she wishes to take a trip to Cuba. She finds herself bewitched at the charm of electronic music, particularly the electropop of Ladytron. When it comes to her favourite cuisines, Indian and African dishes seem to be more alluring to her.

Find more of her work at her website.

Image Courtesy: Stephanie Jung