International Museum Day Art

This photographer spent 1,500 days in museums observing people who end up matching with artworks

He has visited museums in Paris, Vienna and Berlin for this project   | Photo Credit: Stefan Draschan

It was at the age of 34 that Berlin-based Austrian photographer, Stefan Draschan, owned his first camera. It was gifted to him, by his brother, as a reward for giving up smoking. Until then, he had flitted between many roles — “studied History, co-owned a cafe-bar-club, was a journalist, DJ, teacher and a social media consultant…” Stefan took up photography as a serious calling, having staunchly followed the works of Stephen Ellcock, an online curator of art history.

Soon enough, he would find himself waiting around in galleries, for people to walk in, and unknowingly end up matching with the artwork they are viewing (in terms of the colours or patterns they wear or how they pose). He spots happy coincidences of colour, form, pattern and style and photographs them. Titled simply as ‘People Matching with Artworks’, this series of photographs, is slowly garnering global attention for the very reason that it is unusual. But we find that it is only one of the many unusual and seemingly bizarre ideas that the photographer has been following.

This project has been underway since 2015

This project has been underway since 2015   | Photo Credit: Stefan Draschan

Among the Gauguins and Monets at Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, he would wait. Multiple revisits too, would follow, for the perfect frame. Sometimes, people wearing colours that instantly match the artwork walk in; sometimes, the same person that Stefan had seen years ago would walk in and peer at the very same painting. Sometimes, he would catch as many as 10 such occurrences within 90-odd minutes of waiting. And none of these frames are orchestrated or posed for.

About the inception of the idea, Stefan writes to us from Berlin, “Before I had started working on this series, I never liked to see people in front of artworks in galleries, as it takes away from the experience of viewing a piece. It is, in fact, still unpleasant. For instance, when I visited the Vermeer Exhibition in Louvre, we were never allowed more than two seconds in front of each painting.” But his dislike gave way to an artistic project solely built on observations of mundane activities. It was in 2015 that Stefan decided to document the many sights that often go unnoticed in museums and galleries. Over years, and after multiple visits and long intervals of waiting, he has shot about 1,200 such frames, till date. However, in the past two months, he had not been able to visit museums and galleries due to the lockdown.

The uniqueness of this series has garnered him global attention

The uniqueness of this series has garnered him global attention   | Photo Credit: Stefan Draschan

Stefan’s favourite experience working on this series was when he spotted the same person in the same gallery, whom he shot 30 months before. “He was in front of the same painting as well. I had, in fact, predicted that he would come in front of the painting again, some day,” says the photographer. There have also been times when his efforts went futile. “If there’s no frame to catch, I stand there and study the artworks myself. I feel that the oil paintings breathe more when there’s no one around,” he explains.

Apart from photographing people matching with artworks, Stefan had also been catching some light-hearted, funny sights — people sleeping in museums and libraries is one! In fact, this is also an entire series in itself. “Interestingly, I have also found people arguing with the artworks at times,” he recalls.

How has the lockdown been treating his artistic practice? “I had been in museums for a total of 1,500 days in the last five years so I think it’s okay to stay home and look back at the work I have produced,” he concludes.

View Stefan Draschan’s work on Instagram (@stefandraschan)

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 2:54:34 PM |

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