On Saturday, German photo artist Andre Luetzen had lunch with a family he had photographed for his ‘Inside Outside’ series that forms part of his weather trilogy, ‘Living Climate: A Tale of Three Cities’ that is on show at Uru Art Harbour in Mattancherry.
Mr. Luetzen has now friends across the twin towns of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry. Luetzen had been here three years ago as a resident artist at the Kochi Biennale Foundation’s ‘Pepper House Residency’ when he travelled around with a translator and interacted up-close with people whose private living environs he captured in minute detail.
“I’m no street photographer, going around clicking at random. It’s all theme-bound with deeper layers,” he said during an interaction with The Hindu at Uru, where the exhibition will be under way till February 28, after which it will travel to Bengaluru and Kolkata. The show is held in association with the Max Muller Bhavan.
It was a residency at the Russian city of Arkhangelsk, in the arctic, a few years ago that spawned the series around the interplay between the weather of the place and the private lives of people indoors. “The temperature there was -20 degree Celsius then. I stayed in a two-room apartment with classical Russian architecture. I thought, if you happened to be in a city like this, with five to six months of hard winter, how you would spend time! What could you possibly do? This thought led me to the series, as I visited several households with a translator, spent time with the people to understand who they are and what they do and tried to capture their relationship with those spaces.”
After the Arkhangelsk experience, the series got naturally expanded to include Kochi, but there was this sense of being incomplete which nudged him to include Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, where he used to teach, to complete the trilogy. “The lives are from three different continents and cultural backgrounds, with cold, dry hot and humid climes.
Slicing away moments
Mr. Luetzen didn’t want his subjects to pose for pictures, looking into the camera. He chose to slice away moments from people’s intimate interaction with their beloved ones and objects at their place of dwelling, without interfering with the setting. There are pictures that try to bring about the spaces as such, with their details, the toys that occupy pride of place, pets, the interplay of light and shade, the way people behaved with one another and the like.
“In a way, it’s a documentary or some sort of a fiction that comes out when you put it all together and go back and forth, sometimes cutting across the segments,” he says. Mr. Luetzen’s idea of photography itself revolves around his idea of presenting the seldom-noticed details, “to twist their view a few degrees further”.
Who knows, maybe there could be another city added to the package, exclaims Mr. Luetzen, who brought out in December last a series of images from Congo in a monograph, titled ‘Up-River Book’ on the lives of the people, the flora, fauna and the Congo river – the contemporary Congo along the river, a project that he executed by travelling to the place twice on a UN patrol boat. Diary notes from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness form its text.