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“I only use my camera, my feeling and the given frame. I don’t think about what I do or how I do it”, says Nannimensch, who doesn’t always refer to herself by the term ‘photographer’. Her images convey the moods and emotions she felt at the moment of the click. Without the aim of developing a signature style, she lets her feelings dictate the flow of the shoot at her various outdoor locations.
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Nannimensch gets inspired by various sources when creating the images of her Jurljin series of photographs. She doesn’t make a deliberate push to create a theme. However, there are a few elements that reoccur across some of these images. Nannimensch lets her emotions play out when taking these photos without any preconceived ideas or thoughts. It feels like she’s immersing herself in the photographs, allowing her ideas to seamlessly flow into the photos and becoming a part of them.
The Essential Photo Gear Used by Nannimensch
Nanni told us:
When I started to focus more on photography, I had no money to buy a camera… but a very wonderful person gave me a Pentax K-r. This camera accompanied me for many years, let me learn a lot… and if it hadn’t broken down at some point, I would probably still be taking photos with it. I was familiar with it, I liked it… I didn’t really want another one. Then I tried it for a short time with any Nikon… but finally landed on a Sony Alpha 7 II, which has been with me for a couple of years now. I can’t explain or justify why…. it was just coincidence, feeling, spontaneous sympathy.
I feel the same way about lenses – I don’t have the patience or the nerve to spend a long time studying them. If I have one that suits me, it’s all good – I don’t care if some other one might fit even better. When I get a lens as a gift, I’m nevertheless pleased and like to try it out… but in the end, I always end up with the lens that I used with this camera from the first moment on: it’s a Sony/Zeiss Vario-Tessar, TE 24-70mm f/4.
The Phoblographer: Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Nannimensch: Actually, photos and photography have interested and fascinated me all my life, but for a long time, it never crossed my mind that I could take photos by myself. Or I was simply too cowardly and shy to try it out. I didn’t believe I had any talent in this field, so I just looked at other people’s photos and enjoyed them. My own way of expressing was only writing…
That changed a little bit towards the end of my time at university (I was studying sociology and psychology), when a friend of mine started photographing. I also bought a camera at that time, and we often went out together to take photos. Of course, what we were doing was far away from any kind of professional photography… but it opened a door for me, and I slowly lost my shyness and former reservations. More and more often I was on my own to take photos… I photographed nature but also abandoned buildings and places…
I think this intensified when I wasn’t very well for a while and a lot of things in my life weren’t really going great. I thought a lot, I spent a lot of time alone… looking for silence, nature… and I noticed that taking photos made it easier for me to take what I needed. Taking photos was like a kind of legitimation for me to take time, listen to myself…. to become involved with my surroundings… but also with myself. Likewise, of course, it was a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings and offered me completely different possibilities than writing. A little bit, perhaps, it was as if I had found something in photography that I had been searching for all my life. Well, the things that didn’t go well in my life finally made me drop out of my university studies, and I started to work in a rather stupid part-time job. So I didn’t have much money, but a lot of time… and I became more and more sure that I wanted to use this time to focus more on myself, art and photography…
The Phoblographer: Please explain how your camera gear helps you achieve your creative vision.
Nannimensch: I have to answer the question from my point of view. I can’t explain how certain equipment helps me to realise my ideas in the sense of “I use this camera with this lens to achieve this”,… but maybe I can explain why my rather low interest in equipment helps me to achieve what is important to me.
I think it is necessary first to answer what creative visions I have. While my previous answers were rather general, in the following, I will mainly refer to my project Jurljin. In this regard, it should be said that Jurljin is something of its own – my approach to this project and my way of working in this project are sometimes quite different from my other way of working, i.e. what applies to Jurljin does not necessarily apply to all my work. At the same time, Jurljin cannot be separated from my other work. It is rather a kind of summary and bringing together of things and themes that I have worked on so far… and at the same time an attempt to overcome them, to expand them. It is an attempt to find a way back to my beginnings in photography… and at the same time, further development. It is the attempt to limit myself in some ways in order to gain more space in other ways. It is the attempt to be pure feeling… to think as little as possible. It’s about moments. Letting go. Being free of any expectation…
But what does that mean exactly? When I started taking photographs, the aspect of “thinking as little as possible” was very important to me. Most of all, I wanted to capture what lies behind thinking… behind rationality and intellect and their tendency to distort and bend things into shape. Technical perfection was not important to me, but capturing honest moments and moods. Of course, I was aware that it is helpful to have some basic knowledge and to be confident with the camera – but I was convinced that I can’t take a good photo if I can’t feel it and that the feeling, as well as the ability to go into it without fear and control, is the most important thing. So above all, I practiced listening, observing, and letting go…. always searching for what is real and original. Undistorted. Any technical knowledge about photography I acquired rather incidentally.
The longer I photographed, however, the more often I had doubts if I was still living up to this original claim. Were my photos still honest? Did things come to the center of attention that was supposed to be beside the point? Do I allow my mind to take up too much space? Do I stage, plan, hesitate, anticipate, correct too much? Sometimes I felt locked in all the possibilities I had gained over the years… and also locked in the expectation that what I was doing had to be “good”. So “Jurljin” was an attempt to consciously and purposefully return to my intention of not giving the rational thinking any space. To simply let myself go with what is… and to trust my pure intuition.
I only use my camera, my feeling and the given frame. I don’t think about what I do or how I do it. I just watch (my surroundings or myself), observe, get involved…. follow what I find without knowing the destination…. and press the camera release button when I feel some inner connection and it feels right. A lot of technical stuff or pre-planning would only disturb me and distract me from the essential… or even make it impossible to find what is in the priority for me in this project.
I’m not really interested in equipment and technical stuff. It’s not important to me. It has never been important to me. I don’t know much about it. And maybe that’s why I’ve never actually called myself a “photographer” – I just take pictures. With a camera. Digitally. There may be cameras I like better than others – but that can’t be explained logically, it’s just a feeling…. nothing rational.
The Phoblographer: When and how did you realise you wanted to develop a darker, moody style?
Nannimensch: I’m always a bit surprised when people say my pictures are “dark”. I never thought about what style I had or wanted to develop. I always did what seemed right to me… what wanted to come out of me. There was never a plan or a specific goal. I just wanted to be myself. Maybe I’m a dark person? I don’t know… I don’t really feel that way. But a thoughtful person, maybe. A little melancholic sometimes. Parties and small talk were never my thing…
The Phoblographer: Has this style evolved since its initial days? What direction do you see it taking in the coming years?
Nannimensch: I have never thought about whether I have a certain style. But the fact that the pictures and their expression somehow change and develop in the course of time is probably normal and can hardly be avoided. When I look not only at “Jurljin” but at all my works, I see clear changes, developments or even phases… but no continuous development in a specific direction.
I can’t see a concrete development for the future either. Most of the time, I work on several ideas and projects at the same time, and many things arise spontaneously. I also have many thoughts, questions and topics in my mind that I would like to deal with in more detail. But I don’t know where the whole thing will actually lead…
The Phoblographer: There’s a ghostly feel to a lot of these. And there’s deliberate motion blur from the subjects. What’s the feeling that goes behind these choices?
Nannimensch: It is difficult to describe or explain the feeling… because it is not a conscious decision. It is rather the feeling that this way of photographing corresponds best to the feeling or mood that is present at the moment and conveys it best. Why this is so, I can only guess myself…
I think very often, the blurriness underlines the fleeting nature of the moment. The photo is trying to capture something that is not fixed but is passing by or perhaps has already passed by at the moment the photo is taken. It also makes clear that it is not about the person, the landscape or the object depicted in the photo, but something behind it. At the same time, the blur prevents the eye from getting caught anywhere…it is the softly passing breeze that you cannot hold on to…but that you can feel. Which you can perhaps also follow… through the streets, the woods. It is a mood that is not bound to a fixed place but is in the air. It is a whisper… nothing that shouts or pushes itself forward…. it is quiet, it is soft, without beginning or end… without a definite contour…. it cannot be grasped and yet it is there…
The Phoblographer: The emotional connection you have with the outdoors is quite evident. Tell us more about this.
Nannimensch: I feel at home in the woods and in nature. It’s a place to be completely with myself, to feel somehow safe and secure. When I’m not outside for a long time, it’s like I am losing a part of myself. An important part. Something very fundamental. There have been several times in my life when I tried to ignore it – but it didn’t work. It breaks me down. I need the outdoors. The trees and their whispers…
So… yes, there is a great bond that plays a big role, especially in the Jurljin project – but I myself have not yet succeeded in explaining this meaning in more detail or understanding it completely. I think one aspect is certainly again the already mentioned turning to the essential, the original…
I actually never use flash or artificial light – I love daylight, natural light…. – I only use artificial light sources when there is really no other way because of the lighting conditions, but this can also be a desk lamp or something similar… – I like to improvise and to include the possibilities and particularities of the given surroundings. All in all, I don’t have much interest in technical equipment and prefer to limit it to the essentials.
The Phoblographer: It’s somewhere between monochrome and sepia, but why have you chosen to do this series without colour?
Nannimensch: That wasn’t a conscious decision either, but rather a feeling, an intuition… it seemed right to me, even if I couldn’t explain it.
I said above that Jurljin is an attempt to limit myself in some ways in order to gain more space in other ways – I think not using colour is such a limitation. Normally I like to work with colours and use them to underline or intensify the moods of single pictures… in Jurljin, I don’t do that. What I gain from this is, for example, a connection between the images…. a common underlying tone, which is also an important feature of the project – the photos do not stand alone, but merge into each other…. are separate and yet one… and only acquire their full meaning through the other pictures.
There is also no clear beginning, no clear end… no focus, no tangible form. Only moments that merge, influence each other and form new moments again… – so a repetition of what I already said in relation to motion blur…
I have to differentiate at this point whether I’m out somewhere taking photos of my surroundings (then I use absolutely nothing but my camera) or whether I’m in my photos myself. In the latter case, I’m a model and photographer at the same time, which can’t be done without a tripod and remote shutter release. In addition, for some time I sometimes use a large monitor connected to the camera so that I’m not shooting completely blind.
The Phoblographer: Do you tend to shoot these during a particular season? Why or why not?
Nannimensch: No, not at all. Usually, there is not much time between the taking of the pictures and their posting – Jurljin is usually very current and, as an overall project, completely independent of the time of year. For me, the project is about getting involved with what I notice around me or inside me and capturing it as directly and honestly as possible. Nature, the weather, the light, the season, the resulting mood have a lot of influence on the images…. but there is no season that I prefer or find particularly suitable for Jurljin photos.
The Phoblographer: Does your poetry influence the images, or do the images inspire you to write the poems?
Nannimensch: Neither one nor the other. My emotions and feelings inspire me to write. My emotions and feelings inspire me to make pictures. The longer and more intensively I succeed in getting involved in a feeling and staying in it, the more likely it is that my mind will provide both images and words for it, which I then try to capture…
Writing and taking photos are simply two different forms of expression that may complement or complete each other…. but normally do not influence each other.
However, since I have written very little in recent years, Jurljin is also an attempt to open myself up more in this direction again…. to take more time for it… unfortunately, I am often too impatient.
The Phoblographer: I spotted themes of mortality, decay, loneliness, and being trapped in your work. Do these stem from personal experience?
Nannimensch: I have always felt somehow strange in the world, and the feeling of loneliness or not being understood is a very personal and also very deep experience that has indeed accompanied me throughout my life. The same goes for the feeling of being trapped. Trapped in myself. But also trapped in a world in which I found no place for myself.
The themes of mortality and decay, on the other hand, are probably themes that affect all of us – whether we like it or not. But I have never actually felt the need to deal specifically with them in a biologically inevitable and, above all, final meaning. In some figurative, symbolic meaning, the themes may be recognisable to some viewers…But to look at this in more detail would probably be very complex and extensive… so perhaps it’s a separate topic for another time…
All images by Nannimensch. Used with permission. Check out her website and Tumblr page to see more of his work.