wanderlust

Frozen Movement: Undressing The Layers Of Time

While viewing a dance performance, we empathetically experience the pleasure of ethereal lightness. Bodies appear as shapely wonders floating, carrying light and rhythm. Our senses become enhanced; we have been welcomed into the elusive world of forms. For Franziska Strauss, a young German photographer, dance offers an opportunity to capture movement through a secret, intimate glance. But there are two sides to her work: images that act as pristine documentation, on the one hand, and blurred images that resemble phantasmagoria, on the other. Strauss's work will be exhibited at Berliner Liste 2013

The Best Of Both Worlds

Strauss herself was a dancer before becoming a photographer (she was dancing until she was eighteen and only started taking photos at fifteen). When choosing her University education, she became torn between these two artistic callings, ultimately committing to delving deeper into Photography. Interestingly, in order to keep both fires burning she decided to photograph dancers and see how both worlds merged before her eyes.

Artist Franziska Strauss captures velocity and agitation as a voyage. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"I think it was a need to go back again to those surroundings and, after a couple of months, I noticed it was a necessary process for me to let go. When I started photographing dancers, I was very jealous but at the same time I was so happy. I felt that if had gone another way I would’ve missed the road I didn’t take; you over-romanticize a lot."

Strauss studied Photo Design in Munich. From her time in University, she distinctively recalls one Painting Professor that greatly influenced her: "The most difficult thing for me was to let go of rules and this professor was the kind of person who could make you realize that it’s better not to have too many expectations of how things should be. When you paint a face, for example, you have an idea of how an eye looks and then it takes weeks, maybe months, to get rid of that idea and then be able to observe how it actually looks to you; to let go and actually see what the hand is doing. I try to do that with the camera now."

APs: What artists influence you?

Franziska Strauss: Picasso – although it’s a damn cliché. I like how he takes different parts of the face and the body and puts them back together; I want to achieve that with the camera. I like the idea of different perspectives in one picture and different proportions that don’t really go together. I often feel that, when you yourself move, the body doesn’t feel like it looks. It feels more like you have different proportions. Your arm could feel two meters long when you extend it while dancing, for example.

Human movement expressed as phantom juxtapositions. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Franziska does not use Photoshop, she masters this technique manually. "It shouldn't be too controlled," se tells me,"I want to still be able to observe what the dancer is doing and then combine both." After attending a dance show by Gallim Dance Company in New York City, she was blown away and asked if she could take a few photos. Soon after seeing her photographs, the choreographer asked her to spend a week with them. 

APs: Which is your favorite photograph?

FS: I like the one where you can't tell exactly what he is doing and where his parts actually belong. I don’t want it to be obvious that they are dancers. It is mostly about other things so I just feel like I’m using dancers to achieve something, to get a feel of how humans in general communicate with their body.  Most of the time they are movements that anyone could do physically. It doesn’t do anything for me if the leg is lifted up to the head.

The lack of title allows viewers to experience the phophographs more freely as visions or fantasies. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Franziska shares with me that she would never put titles to her photos, she came up with a name for the series simply because it was a requirement. "I killed my dinner with karate" is a line of a Joanna Newsom song (what the performers were dancing to) that stuck like a loop in her head. "I love everything that's candid. Even if you see it’s kind of staged, it’s candid for me if the moment is genuine. It’s very transparent when a moment that could not be expected or prepared is captured. It's something that surprises the photographer and the person". Even though her photos with the dancers are staged, the main goal was that, at one point, they'd stop thinking about the fact that she was there. To accomplish this, she avoids giving directions and merely creates a situation to observe. 

The dynamism of Franziska Strauss' photographs portrays simple, humanly movements. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"I view dance as an essential way of expressing oneself that is sometimes disregarded. When we don't find words for our feelings, we doubt them. It’s movement, gestures and touch, constantly wanting to get out and give shape to those emotions. In the end, Dance stands for something general: the entity of body, spirit and soul". Indeed, gestures and playful mobility transport us somewhere the mind alone cannot take us; a different terrain where we can be boundless despite the finite feature of our body and our lives. The photographs of Franziska Strauss are sublime because when realizing our own limits we also come to terms with our own greatness. 

Franziska Strauss is represented by Egbert Baqué Contemporary Art Berlin, which will be displaying her photography at the upcoming Berliner Liste Art Fair [Price range of works: 400 – 2800 Euros, Editions of 6-8]

Article by Sofía Martinelli