Berlin is one of the most visited cities in Europe, which means – in our age of peak digital imagery – it’s also one of the most photographed: especially its major sightseeing icons such as the TV Tower, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag…
Yet you won’t find any such sights in this book, since Markus Lehr patiently and deliberately set out to discover an alternative side of the city; one that’s devoid of traffic and tourists, clubs and culture, and represents instead the beauty, peace and stillness of the night.
“Insomnia” comprises a selection of these images taken between 2013 and 2018. Characterised by the compelling synthesis of mood, light and texture that defines Markus’ work ever since, they reveal the city as it is rarely seen – a place where churches, supermarkets and petrol stations are deserted, their isolation exacerbated by the lonely glow of neon and the sodium glare of streetlights. Billboards advertise their wares to no-one; tunnels wait patiently for vehicles; even the cultural treasures of the Museum Island sit empty and forgotten. Markus shows how the city’s infrastructure is democratised at night.
“The size of the city and the diverse cultural and historical background makes Berlin special for night photography,” comments Markus. “I try to construct scenes that reflect the complexity of the location, which is why there are no people – any face or person makes the viewer focus on that instead of the scene. I would rather show the effect of what people are doing instead of the moment when they are there.”
Although there are no people in these images there are tell-tale signs of human activity. Trains streak by the lens like ghosts, creating a dynamic tension between the silence and the sudden rush of transportation, and lights beam tellingly from the interiors of buildings. The natural world creeps in too: trees, bushes and swathes of grass foreground and frame the images, all rendered somewhat unreal by the cinematic quality of the lighting.
The stillness of the photos that lends them a quietude and elegance that’s refreshing and thought-provoking in an era of trigger-happy digital photography. Their patient execution invites the viewer in to relish their intimate details and filmic ambiance. “We are living in a complex world and these images try to embrace it. “There is this rule for photography, that you should reduce a scene and composition to the bare essential,” says Markus. “I am trying to do the opposite.”
Markus Lehr studied communication at the University of Arts in Berlin and has been working in the field of marketing and new media ever since. Several notable publications have featured his work and he published his first photography book in December 2013. Markus has also showcased his work at solo and group exhibitions in Berlin, Munich, Paris and Wolverhampton.
Parts of the series are available as hardcover book by Camera Infinita.
You can order it here: https://goo.gl/HV3ET2
This series was featured in the Chinese Lifestyle Magazine VISION.
The article also included an interview with me in English and Chinese.
Some images from the series will be shown from May 12 – 21, 2018 in the group exhibition “preparing for darkness“.
This show is curated by Marianne Kapfer.
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