Boris Eldagsen’s photo series ‘POEMS’ is a very intense and profound visual experience. It’s the exploration of levels of reality, consciousness and everything that connects them to each other in myriads of ways. In this very sense, his photographs can indeed be summed up as ‘POEMS’. Using minimal digital effects or post-processing, Boris succeeds in creating images that are a feast to eyes and make the viewer to contemplate and purge his own emotions and look for further meaning. He combines street photography, art, film, and theatre to produce works that are attempted to renew and restore the human condition. ‘POEMS’ is a group of images that can be viewed as fragments of a story or a free verse covering everyday phenomena consisting of but not limited to outings, intoxication, love, sex, hypnosis, mysticism, freedom, religion, gatherings, and sports.
Boris is a digital media consultant and a lecturer based at Berlin, Germany. Besides his lecture assignments, he also conducts workshops at various cities around the world and collaborates with artists working in similar fields. In 2013, he was awarded with the Prix Voies Off / Arles for the strength of his photo work “how to disappear completely / THE POEMS” and is a member of Deutsche Fotografische Akademie since 2014. In his interview below he shares with us some insights into his art of photography:
I am a bastard of places, cultures and times. I grew up in Palatinate, a South-West region of Germany where history has put layer upon layer – from celtic ritual places, to roman temples, medieval churches and castles, to the bunkers of WW1 and WW2. It is a forest area with red sandstones, the sand stems from the time when this landmass was once located where Sahara is placed now. Imagine a compressed desert with trees on top and you have an idea of how it looks like. I studied visual arts and philosophy in Cologne & Mainz (Germany), Prague (Czech Republic) and Hyderabad (India). All cities with a history of 500-2000 years. Then I based myself in Berlin (Germany), and moved 8 years between Melbourne (Australia) and Berlin. Now I am back in Berlin for good. But I do not need a special place to work. Any place will do. I just need the night. Hobbies? For an artist there are no hobbies, every interest feeds into the work.
I have been working with photography for 26 years and with video for 20 years. For me, creativity can be compared to an iceberg. The tip above the water is the rational, analytical part, the huge mass below the surface is the subconscious, intuitive part of the creative process.
I also do larger conceptual video works, called THE SCHOOLS, which start from a rational base and combine disparate elements into a concept that can easily be put into words.
I like both modes of working, none is preferred.
I do not care so much about photography. Photography is just a medium that can be used for any purpose. If photography festivals would be festivals of words, we’d see advertisement, newspapers, lyrics, trashy mags and worldclass literature, how-to-manuals and cooking recipes. But because language is the oldest medium of us humans, we do not have such festivals. They are all split up in their various sub-forms. With photography it is still a mixed bag of things. This is why it is necessary to be conscious about your own reason and purpose to use photography. It is only then, when people using photography can truely communicate.
Not only the title of your website “how to disappear completely” is very contemplative but you’ve also thoughtfully named (POEMS) your latest series of images and videos. Can you explain or tell us about the core idea of your latest work?
Photographers have four different approaches towards reality. Some want to depict reality neutrally (as a philosopher I doubt that this is possible), some want to interpret reality and some create reality. There are also some, who adopt a meta-perspective reflecting the boundaries of the medium itself. I move between interpretating and creating.
I want to use the world in front of the lens to depict the world we have inside us, the timeless archetypes we all share. I hijack what others call reality. If my images have an impact on an emotional, subconscious level and cannot be translated into words, I have achieved my goal. I call my images POEMS to show that they are not stories, but a creative use of the medium that requires to enter with your own feelings and memories into the conversation.
Do you get in fun mode while shooting or stay serious and focused? Do you intend to surprise or shock viewers of your images with deep psychological effects your photography casts? How do your ideas turn into images?
If you do not enjoy what you are doing, why doing it? You can have fun and stay focused. For me this is no contradiction. My work is neither about surprising or shocking. It is about communicating the human condition, touching, questioning this existance. I get the best from my subjects by building trust and a relaxed atmosphere. And through a complex process, in which we map our subconscious minds. Once we have found the intuitive intersection, I start developing ideas from there.
I use a 10 years old Nikon Coolpix. Second hand, they don’t cost more than some movie tickets ;-). The camera is light, not in-your-face and I am so used to work with it that it became a prelongation of myself. Technology is not important for what I do. I build the images on the location, in front of the camera, and nearly any camera could do the job. I also do not Photoshop as many photographers that have been presented on your blog seem to do.
By mapping out the skills of my partner and myself and creating a work mode, in which all our strengths can be used.
Do you have a favorite photo? If yes, tell us why you find it so dear:
‘how to disappear completely / POEM #90’ (the first image) because it shows how I transform reality with my eyes and pure photographic means. It was shot at a boring mainstream event where light was projected onto water fountains – to accompany the greatest hits of the past 50 years (eg. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Beatles…). But again, this is of no importance. My photos are never about the place, time or event they have been taken.
Contemporary photography often sticks to the surface. Most don’t dare enough and stay mainstream. Typological work by followers of followers of the Bechers bore me. If you are not able to see what is inside, stop photographing the world outside.
What would you call your biggest achievements?
To stay curious and open. To continue learning and to share what I know.
I will continue to dig deeper with my work. Living sources of inspiration are Roger Ballen and Alejandro Jodorowsky. In the Nineties Peter Greenaway was also one. Plus many dead painters from Bosch, Rembrandt to the Symbolists and Surrealists.
Say something to our readers:
Don’t give in to fear. Stay open and the same time true to yourself. Be patient, you’ll find your path. Don’t be surprised if it takes 10 years.