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Artist Interview
The IMAGO Photour Camera mobilises IMAGOgraphy for new encounters - worldwide. It is the result of a one year development program by an international team and, being initiated by Werner Kraus’s daughter, the artist Susanna Kraus, and constructed by his grandson, the boat-builder Jakob Kraus, continues the family venture. It is an interactive object d’art and provides a unique experience for a highly attractive and timeless style of black and white portrait photography.
The IMAGO technique enables the creation of life-sized self-portraits on a special paper, custom made by ILFORD (HARMAN). The technique involves direct exposure onto the paper - no intermediary is involved - hence each portrait is unique. In an age of unlimited digital reproductions, IMAGO Camera is truly a valuable work of art. The size of the IMAGO Camera makes it possible for guests to step inside and take a self-portrait without the participation of others. Inside its body the camera surprises most users with a mirror image of themselves - true sided. The focus on the moment of the self-timer is one of finding oneself.
First Memory?
> An ant scrambling in the chest hair of my father. A summer in Bavarian.
First Camera?
> Analog. I was 15 years old.
First Photo Taken?
> With a friend (a love) of mine. Developed by myself. I was 15 years old.
First Imago Portrait?
> Portrait of my father and my sons. Munich, October 2006.
First encounter with Memorieslab?
> In my studio. Berlin, May 2015.
You discovered the Imago camera and gave it a second life. Can you tell us a bit more about it ? What were your motivations?
> In 2005, I found a box with some IMAGO portraits in it. They were taken in the years 1972 - 1978. I discovered some portraits of myself, alone or with my friends... When I saw these photographs, I was fascinated again by these huge lifesize and full body portraits and it reminded me of this old camera where we made portraits inside the corpus. At this moment, I had no idea where the camera could be, and I started to look for it. I found it well kept in the storage of a very famous museum in Munich : the "Pinakothek of Modern Art". I didn't think first about all the difficulties that could come up while trying to reactivate an old forgotten technology but just started working on it. It took me one year and a half to find a company which agreed on reproducing this special photographic paper, called Direct Positive Paper (DPP), for the direct light exposure. In November 2006, I was finally able to organise my first exhibition with the camera in Vienna.
What role does photography play in your life ? Are you a photographer yourself?
> I am not a photographer, I studied theatre to become an actress. For 20 years I played in all the big theatres in Germany and Austria. But when I was young, I was often in the darkroom. My mother was a very successful fashion photographer and I had all the materials to make my own experiments. When I was 15 years old, she gave me a camera and I did a lot of portraits in analog and black and white which I developed by myself.
If yes, do you use digital or analog? Why?
> Up to today, I am not really used to photograph with a digital camera. For documentary photographies, I use my iPhone, but for my art, the only camera I work with is my IMAGO Camera and now the IMAGO Photour. The IMAGO cameras are fastinating me every day!
How did the digital era change people’s approach to photography?
> When people come to my studio in Berlin to make a IMAGO Portrait, their first question is : " What happens if the picture is not good ?". The fear of taking a one-of-a-kind picture with no possibility to review it before printing, is very big ! People are used to make 50 shots of themselves and then choose the best. In my camera you make only one picture. But the time and concentration you need for that is as important as the result. Usually, the first picture is the best, people hardly believe this before they try.
All Imago portraits are in BW. Is it a choice ? What makes BW photography so special?
> Black and white photography allows a focus on the main subject : people. It is very pure, I believe you can better see the personalities, the faces behind, when you see someone in black and white... The simplicity of the black & white process is also a part of the fascination. 10 minutes after having pushed the trigger, the picture is ready!
What makes Imago Camera unique ? What does it bring into people's life?
> The technicity of the lens, together with the strong aesthetic of the paper create an absolutely unique photographic system. For people, it is a great adventure to rediscover themselves. It is also a great option to leave the passive path of art consumers, and move into the one of creating their own idea, their own piece of art. In the same time, it is exciting to see yourself in life-size! Not always easy!
What is your best memory with the Imago camera?
> Thousands! I could tell so many great and funny stories! But here is one very serious: When I first looked for a solution to reproduce the necessary photographic paper, ILFORD Switzerland decided to help me. They worked hard until the first tests were ok. It took them more than a year to get the first DPP roll. I could never afford such a development work by myself! Way too expensive! ILFORD never charged me any cent for that. Years later, I asked them why they did this for me and they explained that the technic of the direct light exposure for which this paper is made, is such a valuable part of photography history, that it has to be kept alive!
What is the biggest risk you have taken in your career?
> To try to get this camera technic back to live! I could never be sure whether it will work in the end or not, and I had to invest a lot of time and money over years. There were so many issues on this way, but now, 10 years later, I am glad I never gave up!
What values do you share with Memorieslab ? What do you have in common ?
> High quality products, love for black and white photography, and power to spread the world with beautifull pictures shot in analog photography.
What do you think about the fact that most of the photographies taken will never be printed ? Do you think that it will change ?
> It is changing already. When young people come to my studio to make their portraits, they always tell us how happy they are not to have to choose among 200 pictures on their laptop, and how much they love being able to take one picture back home and hang it directly on the wall. I believe there is a kind of general tiredness for digital photography. However, I also believe that the future of professional photography remains digital, but there is a very nice upcoming and also growing niche market for analog photography.
Your Imago Photour is now travelling with our BlackOut exhibition. How do you integrate it into the exhibition experience ?
> In the past, I organised several solo-exhibitions, but this will be the first time my camera will be integrated into other exhibition. This is quite exciting, and I am curious to see what opportunities will come up in Shanghai and how the Chinese audience will react!
It is the first time IMAGO is traveling in Asia, how do you expect Asian people to react ?
> Why Asian people should like it less than European people? I hope they love my camera and the artificial expression of the portraits. I am quite excited and I will open my eyes wide!