Stine & Kaya

Berlin 2019

This woman’s work: Nadine Fraczkowski

The photographer captures Anne Imhof’s performers, religious groups and the refugee crisis, all with an eye on creating a connection.

The gan­g­ly youths of Nadine Fraczkowski’s pho­tographs appear to exist in a dif­fer­ent real­i­ty, out­side the bounds of nor­ma­tive soci­ety. With her cam­era, Fraczkows­ki is able to tap into the naivety behind the often bru­tal facade of her sub­jects. Her por­traits are inti­mate yet unap­proach­able, raw and unapologetic. 

While she has become known for her long-term col­lab­o­ra­tion with visu­al artist Anne Imhof (includ­ing pho­tograph­ing Imhof’s recent show, Sex, at London’s Tate Mod­ern), the Berlin-based pho­tog­ra­ph­er has also been avid­ly work­ing on fash­ion edi­to­ri­als, por­trait series and doc­u­men­tary style projects focus­ing on sub­cul­tures, fun­da­men­tal­ist reli­gions, and the refugee cri­sis. A com­mon thread weav­ing togeth­er these dis­parate projects is a strong sense of con­nec­tion with her sub­jects; a desire to shine light on those on the fringe.

Eliza Douglas & Henry Douglas in Anne Imhof, Sex, 2019

Tate Modern, London

Photography: Nadine Fraczkowski

Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York

Have you always been inter­est­ed in pho­tograph­ing people?

It was nev­er a con­scious deci­sion – it just nat­u­ral­ly hap­pened. Now I have a clear­er idea of what inter­ests me, but when I was attend­ing art school [Frankfurt’s Städelschule], I was kind of all over the place. I was pho­tograph­ing my dai­ly life – friends, fam­i­ly, the many trips I took. That was also when I met Anne [Imhof]. We were in a band togeth­er and were already doing projects like video works, col­lages, film­ing everything.

How has your approach to pho­tog­ra­phy changed between then and now? Has liv­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, from Ger­many, France to the US, impact­ed the way you work?

Dur­ing my time in France, even though it’s still part of Europe and felt famil­iar, I start­ed think­ing dif­fer­ent­ly about things I’d tak­en for grant­ed: my own cul­ture, my Ger­man-ness, rit­u­als, habits. Also lan­guage. Because I didn’t speak French in the begin­ning, it was inter­est­ing see­ing how peo­ple would treat and react to me. It’s not some­thing you become aware of until it hap­pens to you physically. 

It was when I was liv­ing in Paris that I became real­ly inter­est­ed in the Mid­dle East con­flicts and refugee cri­sis. The Ara­bic world and refugees are much more present there, so I made a few trips to Calais to pho­to­graph the camps. There was this strong urgency and desire to just go and show the world what was happening.

The sec­ond time I went, they had just evict­ed the whole refugee camp. I spent a day or two there because I want­ed to actu­al­ly talk to peo­ple, and get a sense of what it was like to live there. It felt more inter­est­ing for me to doc­u­ment the events pre­ced­ing and fol­low­ing the evic­tion – the dai­ly lives.

Eliza Douglas & Oscar Joyce in Anne Imhof, Sex, 2019

Tate Modern, London

Photography: Nadine Fraczkowski

Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York

The moments you chose to cap­ture, like kids run­ning around wear­ing paper hats and a Justin Bieber poster hang­ing in the camp, gave light­ness to an oth­er­wise dark circumstance.

They do have a dai­ly life. And even with­in this tense cir­cum­stance, there are pos­i­tive moments in between. That was real­ly touch­ing to me.

Anoth­er project I found fas­ci­nat­ing was the pho­tographs you took in the US, espe­cial­ly your trip to Utah.

That hap­pened dur­ing my month and a half long road trip across the coun­try, from LA to New York. I vis­it­ed the LDS [The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints] Vis­i­tors’ Cen­ter in Salt Lake City and also this bor­der town between Ari­zona and Utah called Hildale where the fun­da­men­tal­ist Mor­mons live. I specif­i­cal­ly looked for places like these, with these fun­da­men­tal­ist reli­gious groups.

I don’t come from a reli­gious back­ground, but I’ve always been inter­est­ed in reli­gious groups, cults and what makes peo­ple want to join them. I was very inter­est­ed in the Man­son Fam­i­ly as a teenag­er, for instance. I wrote my the­sis on sub­cul­tures and how they hap­pen, the codes, the semi­otics from clothes, and what hap­pens when you leave your sys­tem – do those codes get recog­nised, do peo­ple mis­read them? I find that very interesting.

You’ve also done a lot of fash­ion edi­to­ri­als, which appear to be on the oth­er end of the spec­trum from your doc­u­men­tary style photographs.

The fash­ion projects hap­pened not so long ago, but they aren’t that dif­fer­ent – if not almost the same – from my doc­u­men­tary projects. They’re all about the peo­ple. It doesn’t mat­ter who is in front of the cam­era. I’m just try­ing to have a con­nec­tion with my sub­ject. There’s always some­thing inher­ent to my sub­ject that inter­ests me in a per­son­al way. And there’s no sys­tem to it. It’s very intu­itive. I want to give a voice to these subcultures. 

Eliza Douglas in Anne Imhof, Faust, 2017

German Pavilion, 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

© Photography: Nadine Fraczkowski

Courtesy: German Pavilion 2017, the artist

Do you take a dif­fer­ent approach when pho­tograph­ing Anne’s per­for­mances? Because it’s quite spon­ta­neous, the dancers are con­stant­ly mov­ing around and you don’t quite know what to expect.

I real­ly like the process because I know all the dancers well. There’s this inter­ac­tion between the dancers and me in the midst of the per­for­mances. They trust me. Some­times they hold their pose a lit­tle longer for me to get the shot I would want. And I’m usu­al­ly run­ning around for hours, try­ing to cap­ture every­thing I can. It’s nice for me to freely move around and do my own thing. It’s a thank­ful way for me to photograph.

Has your approach to pho­tograph­ing Anne’s per­for­mances evolved over the years?

Maybe it has changed, but more in gen­er­al, and not just in the con­text of pho­tograph­ing Anne’s works, because my life has changed. It’s a nat­ur­al process. It’s like train­ing: the more I pho­to­graph, the more I have a bet­ter idea of what I want.

Sam & Enad

Innsbruck 2018

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